By Julie Howle
PICKENS — A manufacturer of automotive components said Tuesday the expansion of its existing operation in Pickens County will mean an investment of about $5.14 million over five years and the creation of 93 jobs.
YH America South Carolina LLC, at 109 Gillespie Drive off of State 93 between Easley and Liberty, assemblies fluid handling components for power steering for cars a, mainly for Chrysler and Ford, said Chris Estock, plant manager for YH America South Carolina.
“In the current economic climate it’s rare to hear good news but today is and exception,” Estock said at the announcement at the Pickens County Administration facility.
This is the fourth jobs announcement in Pickens County since June, according to Ray Farley, executive director of Alliance Pickens, the economic development arm of Pickens County.
The announcement follows those for Integral Solutions VCI-SC Inc. in June and JR Automation Technologies LLC and KP Components Inc. in September.
Farley said there is no one reason why the county keeps attracting investment. “We have a pro-business County Council, we have an excellent school system, and we have a really good career center and Tri-County Technical College,” he said.
Farley said that in 2007 Fluid Routing Solutions was going to leave the area to go to Quebec, Canada, but a team of community members and local and state leaders convinced it to stay. About a year and a half later, YH America acquired the company, he said.
“That was the backdrop of being able to even have the company in the community so that today we can experience this 90-job announcement,” Farley said.
Pickens County Council Chairwoman Jennifer Willis said there were “herculean efforts” to support the company and keep the jobs. “As a result four years later, they’re still here, they’re still employing all of our citizens and they’re adding people and investment. That is huge,” Willis said.
Estock said the expansion will allow them to increase capacity and improve efficiency at the Pickens County plant. The increase in capacity will result in a growth of 30 percent in sales in 2012, he said.
“Not only are we making an investment in this venture, but also Ford and Chrysler added $4 million in customer-owned tooling to this,” Estock said.
“That really shows the confidence those companies have in this plant here in Pickens County and the confidence they have in us to deliver a quality product at a competitive price,” he said.
Estock said they started hiring in September and should have everyone in place by the end of November.
He said the jobs will include engineers, supervisors, facilitators and assembly line workers. The pay scale varies and there are salary and hourly positions, Estock said.
He said they are looking at adding about 30,000 square feet to their facility. There is currently about 70,000 square feet of manufacturing floor space.
Estock said they also looked at the company’s plant in Versailles, KY., for the expansion and added that because of the global presence of their parent company, Yokohama Rubber CO. Ltd., there were “quite a few options from which to choose.
He said the attraction for Pickens County included the area already having the facility and workforce here as well as the tax incentives they will get because of the investment and the training capabilities in the area.
Willis said the third and final reading of the fee-in-lieu-of tax agreement with the company, which was referred to as project CB, is expected in November.
Willis said under the agreement, the company will pay a flat annual fee on the capital investment for 10 years instead of paying the 10.5 percent property tax rate for manufacturing.
“In Pickens County we are always, always committed to our business community,” she said.