Spotlight On: Anderson County
By Cindy Landrum
PQ: “We aspire to be in the same realm of recruiting that Charleston is in, that Spartanburg and Greenville counties are in. We want to bring our pay scale up to where we’re equal to all those counties that are now $2 or $3 an hour higher on average than Anderson County.”
PQ: “We’re in the community working every day with people who want to go to work and hooking them up with companies that want to hire.”
The last two manufacturers landed by Anderson County are starkly different when it comes to the number of new jobs they will create. Arthrex Inc., a global orthopedic medical device manufacturer headquartered in Naples, Fla., has constructed a 200,000-square-foot facility that will employ more than 1,000 jobs in the next few years. Element Materials Technology, a company that provides non-destructive materials and product testing, will hire 31.
While Arthrex and Element Materials Technology differ in size, they have one important commonality: they pay higher than average wages for the county.
“We aspire to be in the same realm of recruiting that Charleston is in, that Spartanburg and Greenville counties are in. We want to bring our pay scale up to where we’re equal to all those counties that are now $2 or $3 an hour higher on average than Anderson County,” Anderson County Economic Development Director Burriss Nelson says.
In 2018 Anderson County had 14,525 manufacturing jobs, according to the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce. That’s up more than 4,300 from 2012. According to statistics from DEW, only three other counties in the state employed more workers in manufacturing during the fourth quarter of 2018: Spartanburg, with 33,237; Greenville, with 30,239; and Charleston, with 16,885.
In addition to Arthrex and Element’s new plants, some companies already located in the county announced expansions during the past year. Ortec, a leading biomaterial and polymer technology company, announced in February that it was expanding and would invest $20 million and create 18 new jobs; the company had invested $20 million and created 60 jobs in 2016. Bosch, a global technology and automotive supply firm that employs 1,200 people in the county, announced a $45 million expansion in November 2018. Kelly Engineering, a company that specializes in designing automation equipment and CNC machining and metal fabrication, announced this spring it would expand its facility in Piedmont.
“We’re a manufacturing community, and we make things,” Nelson says. “The future for us looks pretty bright. Greenville and Spartanburg are starting to fill up all of the available manufacturing space there. Manufacturers are looking at the I-85 corridor and Anderson County. I think our opportunity to attract high-quality companies is getting better every day.”
Part of Anderson County's success comes from the work ethic and quality of the workforce and a collaboration between local government, workforce development agencies and secondary and post-secondary schools to meet the needs of companies that are local or expand here, he says.
Each quarter, 28 entities involved in workforce development meet and discuss the needs of employers who are already operating or will be opening in the county. And to help meet that need, Anderson has turned its attention to the workforce of the future. Each year, all of the county’s eighth-graders attend a showcase detailing how manufacturing is a viable career option that doesn’t require a four-year degree. Also, the new Anderson Institute of Technology, which opened in August for students in Anderson County School Districts 3, 4 and 5, will further advance the county’s reputation as a manufacturing hub, Nelson says.
“We’re in the community working every day with people who want to go to work and hooking them up with companies that want to hire,” Nelson says.
As for providing new companies a place to locate, Anderson needs to build up its industrial park and spec building offers, Nelson says. The county had just purchased 220 acres in Sandy Springs and built some pad-ready sites when Arthrex came calling. The company decided to buy the entire 220-acre tract that could accommodate up to 1.5 million square feet.
The county has available land near Interstate 85, although Nelson said some areas along the interstate lack the water and sewer necessary for industrial sites. “We’re starting over with the industrial park and spec building process,” he says. “We’ve got some good spots, but we need to beef up service in other areas.”
A previous economic development success will give Anderson County a new tool in the recruiting competition. Techtronic Industries has moved to its new facility off I-85. Its former space on the Highway 28 Bypass will serve as an incubator space similar to the Spark Center in Spartanburg County, Nelson says.
“Spartanburg was successful in recruiting a couple of companies we were after because of it,” he says. “I don’t like losing, and this will allow us to compete.”