MYRTLE BEACH — The CEO of an aerospace components manufacturer said the people he met in Horry County while searching for a manufacturing site were what led him to South Carolina versus other states where he looked.
“We found people that we wanted to work with,” said Chris Verta, CEO of Elm Street Associates, which will begin producing a new kind of airplane material in a 45,000-square-foot facility he plans to build. “This wasn’t so much a business decision. This was a people decision.”
Elm Street Associates, which will create 51 jobs in Horry County, will be the third corporate headquarters that has announced a relocation to Horry County within the past year.
BauschLinnemann, a manufacturer of paper laminates for the ends of wood products, will have a grand opening Oct. 7 of its new facility on Harrelson Boulevard in Myrtle Beach.
Connecticut gun manufacturer PTR Industries is outfitting a spec building at the Cool Springs Business Park in Aynor to accommodate its operations.
Verta said he had looked for a site in Virginia, Georgia and Florida and credited personnel at the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp. and Horry County Councilman Al Allen and his wife for his decision.
“They spent a lot of personal time with us,” he said of the Allens, who lunched with Verta and his wife at Oliver’s Restaurant in Conway and then showed them around western Horry County.
“They were extremely interested in the Horry County culture,” Allen recalled of the afternoon.
Verta said his company will invest $3 million in the building and equipment to manufacture the product that he’s been perfecting since 2006. The finished product is a plant-based, lightweight material that’s stronger than aluminum and that could be revolutionary in the construction of airplanes.
Because it is a new product, Verta will need 51 new employees, including management, engineers and production workers. He hopes to be able to begin production next year, but the exact timetable is dependant on a federal government regulatory OK that’s not yet finalized.
He said it will take six months to seven months to build the facility once the government approval is in hand.
Verta said the production employees will be paid from $12 an hour to $25 an hour depending on their experience. The overall average plant pay will be above the $14.60 an hour countywide average, he said.
Because the material and manufacturing process is new, the employees will be trained at Elm Street’s new plant.
“This is a new technology with materials that have never been made,” he said.
The process has been perfected at Pennsylvania Wax, the nation’s oldest supplier of industrial investment casting wax products, which Verta also heads.
He said that company will remain in Pennsylvania, but he could open a warehouse in Horry County to distribute its products in the Southeast.
Besides the new material, Elm Street Associates also manufactures synthetic plywood, insulated concrete form panels and high insulation value roofing tiles, according to information from the EDC.
Brad Lofton, the EDC’s CEO, said southeastern aerospace facilities that will be convenient to the company’s Horry County location include Boeing in North Charleston, Honda in Greensboro, N.C., Gulfstream in Savannah, Ga., and Airbus in Mobile, Ala.
Verta said he refused local incentives to help his company’s move. But Elm Street will get state tax credits for the jobs it creates.
Allen said he thinks the Vertas will blend easily into life in Horry County.
That’s the key.
“These people and these relationships,” Verta said, “have become extremely valuable to me.”
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.