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County Spotlight: Newberry | Best Places to Work in S.C. | S.C. Delivers
Historic Keller Hall at Newberry College. (Photo/Newberry County Economic Development)
Small town moves toward modern manufacturing By Jenny Peterson, Staff Writer
ith quaint streets lined with antebellum homes and the famed Newberry Opera House, Newberry County has been recognized as one of the 100 Best Small Towns in America. Halfway between Columbia and Greenville, with a population of 37,521, Newberry offers a truly comfortable pace of life. Manufacturing has always played an important role in Newberry County as an economic driver, and the county boasts nearly 5,000 manufacturing jobs today. “More than 30 percent of our workforce is engaged in manufacturing – that’s more than double the state’s rate and triple the national rate,” said Rick Farmer, Newberry County Economic Development director.
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Newberry Coun by the numbers ty
Population............ ....................... 37,5 21 Average Income.... ................... $33,68 6 Leader in manuf acturing jobs Newberry has a mu ch higher percentag e of manufacturing job s than the rest of the state and the U. S. Percentage of employment in manu facturing: United States ........ ........................... 9% South Carolina ........ ....................... 12% Newberry County.... ........................ 33% Source: S.C. Depa
rtment of Employ
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Above: Falcon Bass Boats employee Leonel Cardinas works on a boat in the factory in Newberry. Right: owners Stephen Waller and Tim DePriest stand in front of Falcon’s F215 bass boats. Boat building is making a comeback in Newberry County. (Photos/Jeff Blake)
Major long-time employers in the county include Kraft Foods, Caterpillar Inc. and Georgia-Pacific Corp. “This community has known for decades the value of a manufacturing-based economy,” Farmer said. “Major manufacturing companies have laid the groundwork for today.” Newberry County is adapting to new types of manufacturing, including automotive manufacturing, with increased workforce training in the growing field of advanced materials and industrial technology. The county also boasts one of the largest industrial mega sites in the state of South Carolina – nearly 2,000 acres, ready for large-scale industrial development. “We hope to land an automotive assembly-line plant that would anchor the Midlands and be like the BMW plant found in the Upstate,” Farmer said. With automotive markets already established in the Upstate and in Charleston, “that leaves the Columbia metro area,” Farmer said. “We hope we will be the next to strike gold.”
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Rooted in manufacturing history Newberry County is home to a varied and diverse manufacturing base, from food processing to lumber, with a number of long-time companies anchoring the community. One of the oldest manufacturers in Newberry County is Kraft Foods North America, where approximately 2,500 workers are engaged in food processing, including raw and cooked turkey products. Caterpillar Inc. manufactures generators in Newberry County, employing 325 workers. Komatsu America Corp. began operations in 2001 and manufactures front-end loaders and a variety of forklifts. “They are a global name and have facilities all over the world,” Farmer said. There are 150 employees at the Komatsu facility. Korean company Kiswire Inc., a manufacturer of steel cord and bead wire, has been operating in the county since 1999 and is currently on phase III of an expansion that will be worth more than $50 million. Upon completion, Kiswire Inc. will employ
more than 200 people in its two Newberry locations. Another long-time Newberry County manufacturer, ISE America, has been producing eggs at a feed mill and shell egg processing plant since 2001. With 120 employees, ISE Newberry also serves as the company’s sales office in the Southeastern United States. Other manufacturing employers include: • Trucast Inc., which produces wheels for diesel engine turbo chargers. • Georgia Pacific Corp., which produces Southern pine plywood, lumber and wood chips. • West Fraser, a Canadian company that manufactures lumber and wood byproducts. • Pioneer Frozen Food, which manufactures frozen-dough products, including the world-famous
COUNTY SPOTLIGHT: NEWBERRY
Longtime Newberry County employer Komatsu America Corp. manufactures front-end loaders and a variety of forklifts. (Photo/Newberry County Economic Development)
McDonald’s McGriddle breakfast sandwich. A category of manufacturing coming back online in Newberry County is boat building. Sea Pro Boats, born in Newberry County in 1987 and shuttered in the Great Recession, announced last year that it would re-open in Newberry County with a new line of bay boats and center-console offshore fishing boats. The company is investing $5.5 million and generating 238 new jobs in Whitmire. Falcon Boats, a startup boat manufacturer, announced in March 2016 that it would manufacture a new line of sport fishing boats in Newberry County. “Falcon Boats was originally a boat repair company, but they wanted to get into the boat-building business, and they knew Newberry had a history of boat building,” Farmer said. “Marine manufacturing is definitely in our wheelhouse.”
Move-in ready ‘mega site’
Newberry County has a number of available sites and buildings for relocation or expansion. The largest, the I-26 Mega Site, has more than 2,000 acres, just two miles off the interstate. Also served by rail, the location has gotten a lot of buzz as one of the state’s largest certified mega sites. Other sites include 425-acre MidCarolina Commerce Park, and the 119-acre Carlton Industrial Site. Available buildings and warehouses range from 15,000 to 50,000 square feet. Special Advertising Section
COUNTY SPOTLIGHT: NEWBERRY County leaders and business executives at the groundbreaking for Kiswire’s fine wire plant in Newberry County. The company is on Phase III of its expansion. (Photos/Newberry County Economic Development)
With an affordable tax base and abundant resources, including reliable and low-cost electricity, Farmer said the county is poised for new growth. “We are fixated on the future,” he said. “If a company needs ten acres or 1,000 acres, we’re going to make sure we compete for as many new jobs as we can.” Move-in-ready sites can save companies six months to a year of moving-in time in order to be up and running, Farmer said. Newberry County Councilman Les Hipp, chairman of Council’s Economic Development Committee, said the county has competitive incentive packages for relocation or expansion. “We compete with any other county on special source revenue credits and making land and facilities available at the most competitive price that we can offer,” he said. Farmer said the goal is to get a company—ideally automotive manufacturing—to move into the entire mega site. “We are looking for the kind of projects that can be game changers,” Farmer said. “A billion-dollar investment can reshape the economy of the entire region.”
A logistically superior solution
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Newberry County is located halfway between the Greenville and Columbia metro areas off I-26, which makes it a prime location for moving goods to the port of Charleston and throughout the Upstate.
“Companies know they can get on the road and reach their markets quickly,” Farmer said. “Today, everything is about how quickly a company can get to its customers; logistically, we are a superior solution.” The location allows the county to be able to draw from a wide labor market in nearby Richland, Lexington, Laurens, Spartanburg and Greenville counties.
Adapting the workforce Newberry County has made a concentrated effort to increase workforce training in modern manufacturing, especially the emerging advanced materials industry. “Gone are the days with people shoulder to shoulder on assembly lines—now they have to run machines and know how to read blueprints and know how to troubleshoot,” Farmer said. The county has established a mechatronics program through the Newberry County School District Career Center and Piedmont Technical College, where students can receive a mechatronics technology associate degree. Hipp said the goal is to bring in new target industries that come with higherpaying jobs. “We are out to find jobs that pay higher to increase per capita incomes,” he said. “Manufacturing and automotive are higher tech manufacturing, and to that end we’ve added mechatronics classes and elevated
The campus of Newberry College, which educates students in a number of disciplines.
training that would benefit our younger citizens and keep them within our county.” Beverly Leslie, director of the Newberry County Career Center, said 650 students are enrolled at the career center each year from three local high schools. High school juniors and seniors generally attend classes at the career center for three hours each day in the morning or afternoon. Workforce training classes at the career center include biomedical sciences, forensics, agriculture, automotive technology, machine technology, welding, horticulture, carpentry, CAD design and business programs for accounting and basic finance. Many of the classes can be continued at Piedmont Technical College for dual credit. The career center has flexibility to add classes based on industry needs. “Right now, boat manufacturing is a new industry and we are meeting with company owners and asking how we can meet those needs with our students,” Leslie said. “We don’t currently have a program in marine technology, but it’s something we can add.” The center also coordinates internships, apprenticeships and work-based learning courses. The county uses Apprenticeship Carolina and ReadySC to help employers train the workforce on specific skills. “We will continue to move the goal
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posts as more companies are demanding more out of workers with each passing year,” Farmer said. “We have to be flexible and willing to adapt the workforce to meet the needs of industry.”
Quality of life
Top: The annual community Christmas tree lighting takes place at the town’s Community Hall. Below: A quaint downtown and affordable quality of life welcome residents to Newberry County.
Places. Housing options cover a wide range of styles, from modern homes to lake houses to historic structures in downtown Newberry. A former textile mill built in 1912, Oakland Mill, has been transformed into a luxury apartment complex near Newberry College. Newberry County Memorial Hospital provides quality health care close to home. Two 18-hole golf courses beckon both serious and leisure players. “These are things that catch the eye of workers and manufacturers,” Farmer said. “When you bring in management, and they employ a large number of people, you want them to be in a community in which they themselves want to live.”
Fireworks over the Newberry Opera House during a New Year’s Eve celebration. ( Photo/Rob SummerSummer Media)
With a population of 37,521 and average income $33,686, Newberry County offers a quaint, rural life, surrounded by nature. Large fresh water sites are a short drive away: Lake Murray, Lake Greenwood and the Saluda and Broad rivers, teeming with boating and fishing opportunities. The Sumter National Forest, the Palmetto Trail system and Dreher Island State Park offer a multitude of outdoor adventures between festivals and summer concerts on the weekends in the historic downtown. The Enoree River Winery in Newberry is a relaxing, intimate winery that serves local, hand-crafted wines. Carter and Holmes Orchids, established in Newberry County in 1947, is one of the largest orchid nurseries in the world. The iconic Newberry Opera House is the county’s most recognized attraction, drawing over 100,000 visitors annually with its impressive cultural offerings. The Opera House is the hub of downtown Newberry’s cultural life, and anchors a thriving small city that hosts numerous festivals and events throughout the year, such as Oktoberfest, free downtown concerts and movies, and the popular barbecue festival Pork in the Park. The county is also home to Newberry College, a thriving community of students and professors engaged in traditional liberal arts education. It was voted the 33rd Best College in the South for 2015 in U.S. News and World Report rankings. The Newberry County School district, which enrolls 6,000 students, has received an excellent rating for the past two years. “We have a low-crime environment with great public schools. This is not only a great place to do business, it’s a great place to raise a family,” Farmer said. Newberry County offers affordable cost of living with median home prices at $109,200, according to Sperling’s Best
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This special section on Newberry County was originally featured in 2016 SCBIZ Issue 3.