Just desserts: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's (pictured above while unveiling his 2004-05 budget) involvement in wooing Reliable included inviting the company's top executives for dinner at the Governor's Mansion.
Reliable Automatic Sprinkler
Showering 350 Jobs on South Carolina
by JACK LYNE, Site Selection Executive Editor of Interactive Publishing
PICKENS, S.C. New York-based Reliable Automatic Sprinkler Co. is shifting its center of gravity southward. The company has announced that it's relocating 350 jobs, some 70 percent of its entire staff, to Pickens County, S.C. .
"We considered a number of locations in the eastern U.S.," Reliable President Frank J. Fee III explained in announcing the project. "Pickens County, however, affords us access to a qualified labor force, tremendous training resources in Clemson University and Tri-County Technical College, and a favorable economic climate that will help us continue to grow and prosper."
The Pickens County site pick means that all of Reliable's manufacturing and product development positions and part of its distribution network will relocate from Mt. Vernon and Elmsford, N.Y. Founded in New York City in 1920, the company's organizational core has been based in Mt. Vernon since 1937.
Park pioneer: Reliable's 300,000-sq.-ft. (27,000-sq.-m.) facility in Pickens County Commerce Park (shown in an aerial view) will be the first building inside the 310-acre (124-hectare) development.
Reliable's current Mt. Vernon headquarters is also relocating, but not very far. It's remaining in southern New York, moving only 12 miles (19 kilometers) north, into office space that the company already occupies in Elmsford.
Cost Concerns Steered Search
Reliable initially began looking for a new facility in 2000 because of the cost- and work-process-efficiencies of consolidation, explained Fee, whose grandfather founded the family-owned company. Reliable looked for suitable sites near its New York locations, but couldn't find one large enough for its project, he said.
Lower costs apparently played the largest role in Reliable's logic vis-à-vis which site was most suitable. The company is feeling strong cost pressures from both larger U.S.-based competitors and Chinese firms now entering the American market, Fee commented at the announcement in Pickens, the county seat. Reliable has about 500 employees, with some US$125 million in sales last year.
Looking to shave costs, Reliable was searching for a site with lower taxes, utilities and support services, explained Fee. Those factors steered the three-year site search to the U.S. Southeast. At one point, Reliable gave considerable attention to sites in Virginia and North Carolina, Fee said.
Then in 2002, the company began investigating South Carolina. One thing it found there was a cost-cutting state and local incentive offer.
State officials didn't release specifics on subsidies, describing them only as totaling "several million dollars." Reliable's incentives include tax breaks, grants and training, said South Carolina Department of Commerce officials.
The company didn't estimate its anticipated annual savings from the move. Fee, however, did say, "We wouldn't go through a transition process that's this difficult unless the savings that we were going to realize in relocating were significant."
Governor Invited Reliable's Top
The project recruiting team (which included the state Commerce Department, Alliance Pickens, the Pickens County Council and area business leaders) turned to two Pickens County schools for Reliable's training. Clemson University and Tri-County Technical College custom-tailored a program to aid not only in training skilled workers, but in recruiting them as well.
Execs to Dinner at the Mansion
"Clemson's research capabilities and our track record of developing talented people, especially in the engineering fields, will be a major asset to Reliable," university President James F. Barker commented after the location decision.
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) also got personally involved in the courtship of Reliable. His recruiting efforts included having the company's top executives over for dinner last year at the Governor's Mansion. (That May 28th dinner coincided with the governor's 44th birthday.)
Town and gown: "Clemson has had an ongoing involvement with Alliance Pickens in planning and developing the Pickens County Commerce Park," said university President James Barker (pictured). Clemson also partnered with Tri-County Technical College to custom-tailor an employee recruiting and training program.
"We're continuing our push to bring jobs to upstate. Obviously, Reliable Sprinkler's announcement is a significant step forward on that front," said Sanford. "The bottom line for this administration is jobs."
Clemson Helped Develop Pickens Business Park
Clemson's involvement went beyond training. The university also played a significant role in creating the northwest South Carolina site where Reliable will build its 300,000-sq.-ft. (27,000-sq.-m.) facility.
"Clemson has had an ongoing involvement with Alliance Pickens in planning and developing the Pickens County Commerce Park," Barker said.
Reliable will consolidate its operations on 56 acres (22 hectares) of Commerce Park, which sits between the cities of Easley and Liberty. The company will be the first occupant in the 310-acre (124-hectare) development, located some 13 miles (21 kilometers) from I-85.
The jobs coming to Commerce Park include product design and production engineers, as well as administrators in human resources, management information systems and purchasing, said Fee. Reliable's manufacturing positions will include assemblers, machinists, maintenance technicians and administrative support personnel.
About 50 current New York employees will probably transfer to South Carolina, Fee said. Laid-off workers will be offered severance pay, continued health-care coverage, and job placement and counseling services.
The relocation will take 18 to 24 months. That process will begin by the end of this year, Fee explained.
Site work is beginning immediately, said Reliable's president. The company anticipates that the $12-million construction process for its Pickens County plant will finish in time for the facility to be operational by the end of 2005 or in early 2006. The project will involve some $18 million more in capital expenditures, most of it for new equipment.
A plaque in Cleveland commemorates the night there when a young W.C. Handy was inspired to begin composing classics like "St. Louis Blues."
French Firm Picks Mississippi Delta
for 250-Worker Plant
by JACK LYNE, Site Selection Executive Editor of Interactive Publishing
CLEVELAND, Miss. Lightning - the best kind - has struck twice in rapid-fire fashion in Mississippi's Delta region. French auto supplier Faurecia has selected Cleveland, Miss., for its new manufacturing facility, which will employ as many as 250 workers making metal seat frames.
The new jobs are heartening news for the Delta, which has battled major blues during the economic downturn. For example, Bolivar County, which includes Cleveland, had a 7.1-percent unemployment rate at year-end 2003. Adjoining Washington County had an even higher jobless rate at 8.2 percent, almost twice the state's 4.7-percent average.
"Faurecia's decision to locate in the Delta proves once again that this area can compete and win on an international level," Gov. Haley Barbour (R) said in announcing the project in Cleveland (pop. 14,000).
And the winners are . . . : Textron Fastening Systems President Rick Clayton (left), Greenville Mayor Heather Hudson, and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour celebrate the announcement of the 250-employee plant in the Mississippi Delta.
The Delta is definitely competing. Less than a month before Faurecia's decision, the area won another major auto-industry project. Textron Fastening Systems selected the Washington County city of Greenville, 38 miles (61 kilometers) southwest of Cleveland, for its 500-employee supplier plant.
"This is the culmination of a very good decision for us," John Ptolemy, Faurecia's vice president for human resources, said in Cleveland. "The combination of state and local efforts and addressing the needs we had for a facility showed what can be done with a great proposal and a group of people who really had it together."
Earlier, though, Faurecia's site-selection decision looked like it was headed elsewhere.
Empty Building Fills Faurecia's Needs
The world's ninth-largest auto parts supplier focused its search exclusively on the Southeast, explained Mike Kamsickas, vice president of Faurecia's metal business unit. The company was eager to capitalize on the region's growing auto industry, he said.
Faurecia bought an empty 150,000-sq.-ft. (13,500-sq.-m.) plant in Cleveland for $3 million. And the four-and-a-half-year-old building contained equipment that the French firm valued at $2 million.
Faurecia had recently narrowed down its search to north Arkansas, according to officials with the Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce. The company, in fact, was reportedly close to sealing a deal on a property there.
"We had already decided to go somewhere else," said Ptolemy. "But the people in Cleveland and Bolivar County put together a package that changed our minds."
A major part of that package was an empty 150,000-sq.-ft. (13,500-sq.-m.) building in Cleveland's Charles W. Dean Industrial Park. But the facility wasn't exactly empty. Some very persuasive equipment was still sitting inside.
Royal Vendors, a manufacturer of beverage vending machines, had opened a plant there in October of 1999 in what was then a brand-new building. In 2002, though, the subsidiary of St. Louis-based Coin Acceptors hit a sharp slump in demand. Consequently, Royal Vendors had shuttered its Cleveland facility, laying off 160 workers. Since then, the building had stood empty for some 18 months.
Mississippi officials let Faurecia know that the facility might fit the company's expansion needs. The auto supplier's location team paid a visit. And once they saw what Royal Vendors had left behind, the company got very interested.
What the building contained was a powder-coat paint system. Royal Vendors had used it to spray paint its vending machines. That same system, Faurecia officials realized, could readily be used to paint the metal seat frames it was going to make in its new Southeast plant.
What's more, the building's price was right. Royal Vendors wanted $3 million for a building that was only some four and a half years old. And the paint system alone was, by Faurecia's assessment, worth $2 million.
Incentives Bankrolling Building Buy
Then the facility price's got even better. Project incentives will bankroll Faurecia's buy.
Cleveland is providing a $1.5-million Urban Development Action Grant to assist in the building purchase. And Bolivar County is putting up another $1.5 million in a 3-percent loan from the Community Development Block Grant program. In addition, the nearby city of Renova is supplying a $250,000 grant.
Faurecia is investing $12 million more in renovating and tooling the building for production. The company expects manufacturing operations to start up in mid-2005.
Some hiring will begin in mid-2004, with much more in 2005, said Kamsickas. The Mississippi Employment Security Commission is handling employee screening through its Cleveland office.
The Cleveland plant's output will be shipped throughout the U.S., Faurecia officials say. The French firm's major customers include Audi, DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, Fiat, Peugeot, Renault and Volkswagen. Faurecia employs 60,000 people worldwide and had sales of some $10 billion last year. In addition to seats, the company makes acoustic modules, cockpits, doors, front ends and exhausts for autos.
Back in Cleveland, Kamsickas said, "The welcome we have received in the Delta has been extraordinary."
The area's warm welcome continued in down-home style after the project announcement. The crowd was invited to a luncheon at the United Family Life Center of United Baptist Church, complete with a spread catered by The Country Platter Restaurant.
Avidyne's FlightMax Entegra flight deck (pictured), a single-system cockpit display integrating multiple pieces of key flight data, recently won Flying Magazine's 2003 "Editors' Choice Award."
Avidyne Picks Florida's Space Coast for 180-Worker Avionics Expansion
by JACK LYNE, Site Selection
Executive Editor of Interactive Publishing
MELBOURNE, Fla. Fast-rising avionics player Avidyne Corporation has decided to fire up its expansion engine on Florida's Space Coast. The Lincoln, Mass.-based firm has picked Melbourne, Fla., for a new facility that will design, test and manufacture advanced avionics equipment for general aviation aircraft.
Melbourne, said Avidyne President Dan Schwinn (pictured), "is a terrific location . . . providing us access to a modern airport facility and a high-tech work force, which will be key ingredients to our ongoing success."
The project will create 180 new jobs over some four and a half years, said Avidyne President Dan Schwinn. Most of those jobs will be high-skill positions. Melbourne employees' pay will average about $75,000 a year, Schwinn explained.
Avidyne already has a Space Coast presence, albeit a small one. The company's current operation is a 12-employee branch office in the Brevard County city of Palm Bay.
Colorado and Massachusetts locations, Schwinn explained, also got long looks in the 18-month decision-making process that ended with Melbourne's selection.
"Brevard County is a terrific location to meet the needs of our growing company," Schwinn said, "providing us access to a modern airport facility and a high-tech work force, which will be key ingredients to our ongoing success."
Location Inside Airport's Industrial Park
Avidyne will locate its new operation in the Melbourne International Airport Industrial Park, selecting a 7.6-acre (three-hectare) site on NASA Blvd. The company will initially build a 60,000-sq.-ft. (5,400-sq.-m.) office and engineering facility, as well as a 20,000-sq.-ft. (1,800-sq.-m.) aircraft hangar, said Schwinn.
Positions Avidyne in High-Tech Cluster
Avidyne picked a site in the industrial park surrounding Melbourne International Airport (pictured).
The airport location obviously jibes with Avidyne's niche. Founded in 1994, the company produces an award-winning line of leading-edge flight-deck systems and radios.
The sophistication of Avidyne's products is a good match as well for the strong high-tech credentials of many of the company's soon-to-be neighbors in Airport Industrial Park. Avidyne's site is near a Northrop-Grumman facility. In addition, other high-tech tenants in the park include General Electric, Harris Corporation, JDS Uniphase, Nokia, Rockwell-Collins Avionics, and Titan Industries.
That cluster positions Avidyne within a corporate community with a like-minded work force, as well as some of the same supplier-network needs.
"In addition to being a top-notch airport, Melbourne International's surrounding industrial park continues to attract industry leaders, ensuring continued prosperity for the airport, Melbourne and Brevard County," Melbourne Mayor and Melbourne Airport Authority Chairman John Buckley noted after Avidyne's decision.
Project Incentives Total $1.5 Million
The Economic Development Commission (EDC) of Florida's Space Coast stayed on top of the Avidyne project throughout the site search's year-and-a-half shakeout.
"This is truly a significant victory for our community," said Space Coast EDC president and CEO Lynda L. Weatherman (pictured). "Avidyne is revolutionizing the future of flight."
"This is truly a significant victory for our community," said Lynda L. Weatherman, Space Coast EDC president and CEO. "By developing and employing cutting-edge technology, Avidyne is revolutionizing the future of flight."
Florida's incentive package was also a determining factor in Avidyne's chosen landing site, state officials said.
The state is providing $900,000 of that package in grants. About $430,000 more in subsidies is coming from Brevard County through a 100-percent, 10-year ad-valorem tax abatement. Melbourne completed the package with its own five-year ad-valorem abatement, valued at some $162,000.
Avidyne's Entegra System
Owing in part to those incentives, Avidyne's made-in-Melbourne products will include the company's high-profile FlightMax Entegra integrated flight deck. Most general aviation pilots rely on a variety of single-function avionics products. The Entegra system, however, provides a single-system cockpit display that integrates multiple pieces of key flight data, including weather radar, air traffic, lightning and terrain avoidance information.
Integrates Multiple Flying Functions
Flying Magazine's February 2004 issue honored the Entegra system for its 2003 "Editors' Choice Award." The Entegra, wrote Flying's editors, "replaces the spinning rotor gyros previously used to measure attitude, heading and rate of turn and eliminates the need for the vacuum pump to power the gyros. The system also has an electronic air-data computer to measure altitude, air speed and vertical speed, eliminating three more mechanical instruments and replacing them with a digital computer [with] no moving parts. Reliability . . . soars compared to conventional instruments."
"As a pilot and aircraft owner, I was struck by the fact that general aviation cockpits have changed very little over the last 30 years," Schwinn said in explaining why he founded Avidyne. "I saw huge potential to develop a core technology and define a new generation of avionics."
Avidyne will gradually build up it Melbourne operation, Schwinn said. The company plans to add 30 employees by the end of 2004, hiring another 150 workers in the three and a half years thereafter.
Editor's Note: For more on Florida's aviation industry, including Safire Aircraft's project in Miami and projects in Jacksonville by both Embraer and Kaman Aerospace, see the Florida Spotlight from the September 2003 issue of Site Selection.
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