By GREG OLIVER
PICKENS COUNTY – A little more than 12 years from the day ground was broken for its new home at the Pickens County Commerce Park, Reliable Automatic Sprinkler Co., Inc. will soon see dirt flying for a second time since officially beginning operations in 2006.
The third generation company, which is among the world’s three largest fire suppression companies, announced its latest expansion during a news conference Thursday at Alliance Pickens headquarters at the Commerce Park. The project will consist of the expansion of 150,000 square feet to the existing facility, bringing a capital investment of $23.1 million and 100 new jobs to Pickens County.
Pickens County Council Chairman Jennifer Willis said she was a newly elected council member the day the initial groundbreaking occurred.
“Twelve years and one day ago, we had a groundbreaking behind me – April 27, 2004 – with Pickens County Council and leaders of Reliable Automatic Sprinkler Company turning dirt on what would be the first occupant of the Pickens County Commerce Park,” Willis said. “Fast forward 12 years and Reliable Automatic Sprinkler Company is still growing.
“Today they have a tremendous problem – a great opportunity for us. They are bursting apart at the seams.”
Reliable Automatic Sprinkler Company was founded in 1920 and headquartered in Elmsford, N.Y. until its relocation to Pickens County. Reliable manufactures automatic fire sprinklers and is a major distributor of sprinkler system components with operations across the United States as well as in England, Germany, Singapore, China, Australia and the United Arab Emirates.
Willis added that the fact Reliable chose to expand its presence in the community is a testament between the company and Pickens County.
“Pickens County Council is proud to support manufacturing growth, which ultimately supports every citizen,” Willis said. “We look forward to watching Reliable’s continued success here for many years to come.”
Indentified for months as “Project Growth,” Reliable was identified once Pickens County Council gave formal approval of a fee in lieu of tax and incentive agreement and the granting and transfer of real property by the county. Kevin Fee, president of Reliable Automatic Sprinkler Co., Inc., thanked the state of South Carolina and Pickens County for the land grant and tax credits provided that made the expansion possible.
“The additional land will allow us to expand our facilities and to develop the necessary additional capacity to put Reliable in a position to fulfill its potential in the growth of the fire sprinkler market,” Fee said. “This guarantees the future growth of our company, which we wouldn’t have been able to obtain without the land grant.”
Fee said that when visiting Pickens County to determine whether the company wished to relocate from the Northeast, he and his brothers were impressed by what they heard from county and state officials.
“We were told ‘This is going to be your home forever’, ‘we’re going to be your partners to guarantee your continuing growth forever,’” Fee said. “Without this land grant, Reliable would have run out of capacity and had to move sooner. The best years of the fire sprinkler market is in front of us, not behind. As long as the population of the U.S. continues to grow, you’re going to have hospitals, schools, houses, shopping centers (where sprinkler systems are needed). The future years of the sprinkler industry is going to be excellent and we’re going to participate in that future.”
Bill Kirkpatrick, senior vice-president of manufacturing for Reliable, said the project will also feature 180 additional parking spaces, more access roads, which would allow trucks to come through the back area, but will require “moving a lot of dirt,”; secured entrances, addition of a 10,000-square-foot cafeteria for some 750 employees, a medical clinic for employees accessible from the inside and outside with a nurse employed by Baptist Easley.
“There will be another building located on campus but no decision has been made on what it will contain at this time,” Kirkpatrick said.
Fee said the company is looking to add three to four new project lines, but, “We can’t do that until expansion is complete.”
Unlike 12 years and one day previously, no groundbreaking was held. Fee said there is a simple reason for that.
“It’s just dirt,” Fee said, adding that he plans a formal dedication ceremony once the building is up and operational and even prior to that, around July 2017. “We want all of you to come to our dedication and see what your investment has allowed us to do.”
The project is expected to take 12-14 months to complete.
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By GREG OLIVER