Good new jobs are always good news, but when they come to an economically struggling area of Georgetown County, they are even better news.
Earlier this week, Davis Aircraft Products of Bohemia, N.Y. announced it will move one of its manufacturing operations to the outskirts of Andrews. It was a coup pulled off by county officials who worked to lure Davis for more than a year, according to a county spokeswoman.
The move is a sign of the region's growing aircraft-based economic sector. Among Davis' client list is Boeing, which has a large and growing factory in North Charleston, barely 50 miles down a back road from Andrews.
The company, which makes products such as seat belts and cargo straps for both military and civilian planes, also makes a patented type of shrouded fuel line called Wolfbend. It is the fuel line operation that is set to open in a former wire factory.
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About 100 jobs are expected to be created, and the company said it will invest about $5.5 million in the project. The state kicked in $300,000 to help refurbish the former Andrews Wire building.
County Administrator Sel Hemingway, a native and resident of Andrews, and Economic Development Director Wayne Gregory worked persuading Davis to come to Georgetown County, said county spokeswoman Jackie Broach.
No doubt being closer to Boeing was attractive to Davis.
“With our new operations, we will be able to attract new customers and increase our market presence,'' company CEO Bruce Davis said in a news release.
Davis is a private company that started in 1951. It is a family firm now led by its third generation, according to its website. Besides Boeing, its client list includes Sikorsky, Cessna, Lockheed Martin and Southwest Airlines.
State officials including Gov. Nikki Haley and Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said the Davis move is another sign of South Carolina's attractiveness to businesses. Hitt said Davis is an addition to the growing aircraft and aviation sector, and the governor remarked that South Carolina is becoming “the ‘it' state'' for doing business.
An employer of that magnitude will help boost the county's economy but is especially significant for Andrews. The plant is not in the town limits, but will still have broad economic impact there and no doubt provide welcome economic cheer.
Andrews Mayor Rodney Giles said residents are thrilled to have the plant in the community, and the town will help see to it that the company's needs are met.
The century-old Andrews got its start as a railroad town and was once a bustling, prosperous little hamlet with thriving textile, metalworking and chemical plants. Few of those are left, victims of the offshoring of textile jobs and the Great Recession.
Andrews Wire, also known at one time as Insteel, was once one of the county's largest private employers, with 300 workers at its peak. The company fell victim to the steel meltdown and closed in 2006. The large facility then became home for a brief time to Envirogard of the Southeast, an operation that treated lumber for interior construction to resist mold and mildew. There was great hope for the company, which also had a Conway facility and produced the licensed BluWood, but it too fell victim to the recession.
Georgetown County itself has suffered its ups and downs with manufacturing in recent years. The steel mill now owned by ArcelorMittal went through upheaval including several closings and two bankruptcy sales, and now employs fewer than it did at its peak. A plant that made electrical outlets and light switches closed, its work sent abroad.
Even though it has at times been among the highest in unemployment rates in the state, Georgetown County was at 8 percent jobless in April, showing a steady downward trend. It ranked in April at about the midpoint, with the worst affected having 15 percent unemployment.
These jobs won't be available until next spring, but possibly the prospect of a well-established new employer will spur others to look into Georgetown, while at the same time fostering a welcome sense of new optimism in the county.