By Ginny Johnson
"We've got the mucky-mucks here in the room ... but the heart and soul of any operation is out there making a living right now."
So said Rep. Gresham Barrett about the 450 employees of Dayco-Mark IV who get to keep their jobs thanks to the concerted efforts of Alliance Pickens and many others locally and from the state.
Now known as Fluid Routing Solutions Inc., the company was initially going to consolidate by closing the Easley plant and moving to Quebec, Canada.
"As grandpa would say, 'the cow had left the barn' on this one," said Alliance Pickens Executive Director Ray Farley. "It was done, it was a done deal."
Farley and several others couldn't let the company go without a fight.
"That was not a good day when I got that phone call," Farley said. "It would have been years to replace those 450 jobs."
Mark IV Industries Inc. was acquired this summer by Sun Capital Partners, Inc. which is now operating the network of businesses under the FRS name.
Now, thanks to fast action and persuasive negotiations, FRS announced Tuesday, that not only would it keep the local plant open, but that it was also moving its Canadian operations to Pickens County.
Ed Parris, chairman of Alliance Pickens said local government gets a lot of the credit too.
"The great sense of urgency that our County Council exhibited in reacting to this situation -it was an emergency," Parris said. "We really appreciate what you folks did to save these jobs.
"The success story we're enjoying today is really a great example of how collaboration and teamwork can result in economic development success," Parris said.
Additionally, 115 new jobs with more growth potential on the horizon is being bestowed upon Pickens County with the closure of the Quebec site.
"Big sigh of relief," Farley said. "And it comes at a good time."
"What a fantastic Christmas present," Barrett said.
Said County Council Chairman G. Neil Smith, "We are very thankful we didn't lose 450 jobs this holiday season.
"We're very happy that we were able to persuade FRS after months of Negotiations that Pickens County was the best site for consolidating its operations," Smith said. "This is a nice Christmas present for the FRS employees and their families."
Farley asked that no one forget the sacrifice made by the employees and families in Quebec who, because of Pickens County's victory, have lost their jobs.
"We know that we are good people ... we also know that the folks in Canada are good people," Farley said. "They rise and shine every morning like we do. they care and love their families and they need to support their families just like we do. And we don't want to forget that."
FSR officials made the announcement at a press conference at the former Mark IV site, now with a Fluid Routing Solutions sign out front.
"In the Short term, they're going to physically move out of the Easley plant the warehousing elements, the non-manufacturing elements." Farley said.
The materials will be housed locally where supplies can be trucked to and from, as well as finished product prior to shipping, Farley said.
"In that vacated floor space, they're going to move the Canadian capital equipment in and hire the folks there," Farley said, adding that the process is expected to take between 18-24 months.
FSR's next decision is whether to expand the existing site or build new in the Pickens County Commerce Park.
"Either way, it's a win for the community," Farley said. Another possibility for the company is to relocate its Michigan headquarters to Pickens County.
Farley said the state Department of Commerce as well as Pickens County Council assisted in making this negotiation a smooth one by offering incentives.
Incentives included job-tax credits, job development credits, training for the new jobs and county fee-in-lieu-of-tax on new investment including machinery, new buildings or additions and property tax, Farley said.
"This is the epitome of teamwork," Farley said. "In a very short period, we called in a significant number of people who could effect change on their decision."
Still, there was no need for arm twisting, he said.
"A main factor in consolidating and expanding here is our Pickens County workforce," Farley said. "They've said more than once how pleased they are with our area workforce."
Said new Operations Manager for power steering products Tim Parys, "In the end, it came down to the excellent workforce in Pickens County that made staying in Pickens County the best decision for our business.
"The experience level, the strong work ethic and the flexibility of the workforce is vital to our company's ongoing success," Parys said. "And we're pleased to remain an active member of this business community."
"If it wasn't for those 450 men and women who are trying to do something different in Pickens County and in their lives, this announcement wouldn't have happened," Barrett said.