Powell-Baker: More than 700 jobs announced in the past five years

The last five years has seen Union County develop a diversified industrial base that draws nearly 75 percent of its workforce from the local population, an achievement the Union County Development Board has supported and continues to support.

Executive Director Andrena Powell-Baker said that in the past five years Union County has seen the announcement of new investments and job creation by both new and existing industries.

“Over the last few years our community has been very, very successful attracting capital investment and jobs,” Powell-Baker said. “Between 2009 and 2013 we’ve had announcements of a total of $266,900,000 in capital investment and 738.5 jobs.”

Powell-Baker said one aspect of the announced location of new industries and the expansion of existing ones is that it is a sign that the county has recovered from the closing of many of the textile plants the county experienced in the 1990s and the early 21st century. Another aspect is that in recent years the county’s industrial base has diversified, both in terms of attracting investment from overseas and in the kinds of industry it has been able to recruit.

“It shows that we have recovered from the loss of much of the textile industry,” Powell-Baker said. “We’ve done that through diversification. We have medical devices, distribution, automotives, plastics, and renewable energy business sectors represented. We also still have a fair amount of textiles here.

“We also have diversification through international companies as well,” she said. “We have Canada (Resolute Forest Products), Spain (Gestamp/Gonvauto), Japan (Daifuku Webb), Sweden (ESAB), and Germany (investment by BMW).”

These are the companies and the products and services they provide that help make up the county’s diversified industrial base as it exists today.

• Allied Industrial International — Flooring

• Anduran — Custom roto-molding

• Resolute Forest Products — Pulpwood

• Carlisle Finishing Plant — Finishing cotton and synthetic fabric

• CPE — Consumer Products Enterprises — Felts, pressed/needle looms

• Belk E-commerce — Distribution and fulfillment center

• Dollar General Distribution Center — Distribution center

• ESAB Welding and Cutting — Manufacturing facility (welding wire)

• Gonvauto — Steel processing

• Milliken-Cedar Hill & Gillespie Plants — Woven fabrics

• Haemonetics — Medical devices in flexible packaging

• Santuc Precision — Machining and stamping

• International Paper Co. — Wood chips mill/paper

• Gestamp South Carolina, LLC — Stamping, automotive supplier

• Lockhart Power — Power company

• Materials Unlimited — Surplus, over-runs non-woven

• Parts & Machinery — Fabricated piping

• Piedmont Concrete Products — Concrete

• Premier Colors — Color chemicals

• Southeast Emulsion — Liquid asphalt storage

• Sonoco Products — Plastic products

• Spectra Colorants — Printing and dyeing garments

• Standard Textile-Carolina — Fabric finishing

• Timken — Anti-friction roller bearings

• Timken Industrial Bearings Services — Anti-friction roller bearings

• Union County Printworks — Specialty screen and flatbed printing

• Daifuku Webb — Ferrous forging, non-ferrous forging

• Construction Resource Group — Water and waste water concrete forms and tanks

• United Wood Treating — Treated poles, treated piling

Powell-Baker said the presence of these companies and the jobs and investments they’ve brought and/or are in the process of bringing to Union County have resulted in a dramatic reversal of the situation she found when she took on the responsibilities of development board executive director.

“Things were pretty bleak in 2009 when I was hired,” Powell-Baker said. “There was an unemployment rate of over 20 percent staring me in the face. Now our unemployment rate has fallen to 9.4 percent, the first time in years that it has been below 10 percent.”

Powell-Baker pointed out the decline in the county’s unemployment rate has been due in large part to the new companies that have located here and the existing ones that have expanded hiring the majority of their employees in Union County. While the percentage varies from company to company, Powell-Baker said that 73 percent of the workers employed by those companies are Union County residents. She said that the development board encourages companies locating here and/or expanding operations here to hire locally as much as possible.

“In recruitment, we emphasize hiring locally,” Powell-Baker said.

The recruitment of new industries and the support of existing ones are the twin goals of the development board.

“Our job is to recruit new industry and support ways to retain existing industry, that is what we were created for, that is our purpose,” Powell-Baker said. “We use a unified approach for attaining our goals beginning with a business plan we work from that establishes priorities, goals, and objectives. Our plans typically include job recruitment activities, existing industry support, and participation in community development initiatives.”

That business plan is the result of the decisions and input of the members of the Union County Development Board of Directors whom Powell-Baker praised for their support of herself and her assistant, Jami Trammell, and the economic development process.

“Jami and I are a small staff of two, however, we do a great job of maximizing our resources to produce a lot,” Powell-Baker said. “We are grateful for the confidence and support shown us by the Union County Development Board of Directors.”

The board members are:

Joe Nichols — Chairman, Director of City of Union Utility Department

Kathy Jo Lancaster — Vice Chairman, Site Coordinator for the Union County Advanced Technology Center

Louis Jordan Jr. — Owner of Ace Hardware

Emma Garner — Vice President of Provident Community Bank

Kristi Woodall — Ex-Officio Member, Superintendent of the Union County School District

Paul Newhouse — CEO of Wallace Thomson Hospital

Douglas E. Wilson — President and CEO of Broad River Electric Cooperative

Steve Lowe — Academic Dean of USC-Union

Dale Wendel — Cone Mill

Roger Fuller — Human Resources Director of Milliken & Company

Joe E. Hines Jr. — Vice President of Santuc Precision

Powell-Baker also thanked Union Council and Union City Council for their support of economic development in the county.

“We are also thankful for the support that we receive from Union County Council and Union City Council,” Powell-Baker said. “Economic development is truly a team effort. In order to be successful we have to continue maintaining those local, state, and national relationships that are currently in place while at the same time building new ones.”

By Charles Warner, Staff Reporter with The Union Daily Times