By Carolyn Farr Smith
A golf ball manufacturer announced plans to invest $13 million in Liberty Wednesday to build a state-of-the-art production facility and expand operations in South Carolina.
TaylorMade Golf Company will establish a new manufacturing and research and development facility in Pickens County.
The 120,000-square-foot production plant will be housed in the Pickens County Commerce Park and will serve as TaylorMade’s North American golf ball production headquarters. Operations are expected to begin in January 2014.
"The opportunity to have a permanent home in Pickens County was too good of an opportunity for our company to pass up,” said John Kawaja, executive vice president at TaylorMade Golf. “We are getting a new building in a booming area that will improve our unit production, quality and margin position. Most important, we are committed to keeping jobs in South Carolina.”
TaylorMade is approaching $2 billion in worldwide revenue, Kawaja said.
Golf ball sales equal $100 million, he said.
“We've been making golf balls here in the neighborhood for the last eight years, in the next county,” Kawaja said. The company currently has a facility in Westminster.
Over the past eight years, the company has been focusing on perfecting its product, Kawaja said.
“We believe we have the best product,” he said. “Products don't lie. Golfers will find it and buy it.”
Over 20 players regularly play TaylorMade golf balls on the PGA tour and over 300 professional players around the world who use the company's product.
“We're ready to grow that business,” he said. “We're really now thinking about moving our business along and readying it for the kind of growth that we believe is possible.”
The new facility will be “a better manufacturing environment that the one we're in today,” Kawaja said.
“It'll allow us to be more efficient, it'll allow us to improve our manufacturing processes, it'll allow us to realize better cost of product, which ultimately makes growth in that category a little bit sexier for us,” he said.
The company currently produces 25 million golf balls a year. The new facility could allow production to double.
While the company designs and develops all its products, golf balls are the only one of its products TaylorMade makes itself. Third party factories manufacture its metal woods and irons.
Kawaja said the Pickens County Commerce Park's was attractive to the company due to its proximity to the company's Oconee County facility.
“That's important, because we believe we have a very highly-skilled workforce today,” he said. “We're hoping to retain as many of those as we can, and the fact that we're 25 miles or so away from our current facility gives us a great opportunity to keep a lot of those people that we've invested a lot of time in building their knowledge.
“The manufacture of golf balls is not a simple process,” he continued. “It's a craft. It's not putting the product at the front of the line and picking them out at the end. It really is a craft and an art and we've got the best in the business.”
The company's move to Pickens County signifies a long-term commitment to its golf ball division.
“It's $100 million of our $2 billion and we believe that it has the opportunity now, since we're making the best product, to be our fastest growing category over the next 5 to 10 years,” Kawaja said. “The category's big; the opportunity's big.”
“South Carolina is home to a number of world-class, well-known brands, and it’s great to see another one choose to grow in the Palmetto State," said Gov. Nikki Haley, in a press release. "We celebrate TaylorMade Golf Company’s decision to invest $13 million in Liberty with its new plant. Announcements like this are another indication that South Carolina is becoming the ‘it’ state for business.”
According to Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt, TaylorMade had a choice between keeping operations in South Carolina or moving to a site in Georgia. Hitt said state and local officials were able to convince them to invest in South Carolina.
Alliance Pickens Executive Director Ray Farley said today was a celebration.
“It's a celebration of multiple South Carolina communities working in friendly yet competitive nature, working in concert with the state of South Carolina, to protect and save one of our South Carolina companies,” Farley said.
The company expects to break ground next month on the new facility.