Canadian manufacturer to establish U.S. headquarters in Horry County

sjones@thesunnews.comJanuary 29, 2014 

A Canadian manufacturer of craft or micro-brewing systems will open a plant in the Loris Industrial Park and plans to begin operations this year.

Vancouver-based Accent Stainless Steel will eventually employ 65 people for its American headquarters operation. All the employees will be hired locally and will be paid an average of $22 an hour, according to information from the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp.

The company builds the Newlands Systems brand of brewing equipment and other stainless steel process equipment for the food and beverage, agriculture and pharmaceutical industries around the globe.

Company President Brad McQuhae said he believes in paying his skilled employees well and that some of the non-supervisory skilled labor will be paid $22 an hour, which is 65 percent above the average wage in Horry County. McQuhae said the company will invest between $25,000 and $50,000 to train each employee. Horry-Georgetown Technical College will help with training.

With that kind of investment, he said, “The last thing I want to do is pay somebody peanuts to have them jump ship for another dollar an hour.”

McQuhae said the company will recruit its first handful of employees quietly. The company will lease space until the new plant in Loris is ready for operation.

“It’s a good project,” said Brad Lofton, CEO of the EDC. “We’re excited to have it here.”

Lofton said the EDC learned of Accent Stainless Steel through a company it hired to help generate leads of new employers. He said the company arranged a meeting between Accent and Brad Sessions, the EDC’s director of development. Later in the process, Lofton and Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus met with company officials in Vancouver.

“Not only can we celebrate new, high-paying jobs for our citizens, but also another first-class company and corporate citizen for the Grand Strand,” Lazarus said.

Lofton said the county is giving Accent six acres at the industrial park for its building as well as a $120,000 performance payment as the company creates jobs. Additionally, the state will give the company job development credits that will rebate 10 years of withholding tax once Accent has created the 65 jobs.

“Accent Stainless Steel’s decision to build a headquarters in South Carolina underscores our strong history with foreign investment,” said state Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt. “The Palmetto State leads the nation in per-capita job creation through foreign-direct investment.”

Lofton said the process of recruiting Accent took five months to six months, fairly quick in economic development terms.

McQuhae said the company had been looking for another manufacturing location for several years. It had a partnership deal in Michigan that didn’t work out, and McQuhae said he shelved the search for about 18 months.

When it started again, he talked with economic developers in Arizona and New Brunswick, Canada, as well as the Myrtle Beach team. All the locations wanted the plant and jobs, he said, but local officials “made it very clear they wanted us down here.”

The EDC went so far as to introduce Accent brass to local developers, bankers and others who could help in its move during a three-day visit to the Grand Strand.

Its new plant won’t be its first effort in South Carolina.

The company supplied the equipment for the Palmetto Brewing Co. in Charleston 21 years ago, McQuhae said. It was the first brewery in the state since Prohibition.

McQuhae said Palmetto Brewing’s owner was excited when he learned Accent would be starting an operation in Horry County.

Because of the tar sands energy development in Alberta, McQuhae said he has problems finding the skilled workers for his Canadian operation.

Those he hires locally will have to have experience in stainless steel welding, McQuhae said.

Applicants will be given a welding test before they are hired.

The company is not taking applications now, and will make an announcement when the process is opened.

A Southeast U.S. location puts the company’s operations within a relatively close distance to a growing segment of its market, McQuhae said. Additionally, an eastern U.S. location will cut significantly what Accent pays to ship its products across the continent.

McQuhae said if all goes well with the company’s operations in Horry County, he could see it doubling in size.

Lofton said the company’s move into the Loris Industrial Park will make it the first new employer there in five to seven years.

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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