S.C. Econ. dev. coalition builds training facility

Saturday, July 1, 2006

LIBERTY, S.C.--To ensure that Reliable Automatic Sprinkler Company had a ready-made, trained labor force when it opened the doors of its new manufacturing facility here, local government, educational and economic development groups worked together to build a place to train workers.
Why would they go to all this trouble?
Because Reliable would bring with it significant investment in the area and more than 500 good jobs.
"Those are the kinds of jobs and the kind of industry we want to attract," said Ray Farley, executive director of Alliance Pickens, an economic development group that's developed industrial parks and worked to attract new business to the Greensborough, S.C., area, and was a key player in recruiting Reliable (see related story page 1.)
Farley said South Carolina offered Reliable the standard tax incentives to locate here, but said that other states had "significantly more incentives on the table. Our biggest incentive is our people," he said.
Over the last year, hundreds of future Reliable employees were trained at the brand new 10,000-square-foot Anderson, Oconee, Pickens Economic Development Center on the campus of Tri-County Technical College in Pendleton, S.C. As other industries move into the area, the facility will be used to give job-specific training to other workers.
Once home to many textile manufacturers, over the last decade this part of the country has seen indigenous industry move offshore, devastating the local economy and leaving scores of people unemployed.
"In South Carolina, we have a skilled labor force that understands manufacturing and understands zero-tolerance manufacturing," said Farley.
Zero tolerance manufacturing is what Reliable needs, Farley noted, because they make a specialty device that can have "absolutely no defects in the production. When a fire sprinkler is called on to work, by golly it better work, because it can mean life or death."
With resources from the state, Pickens and two other area counties, and economic development groups like Alliance Pickens, the group completed construction of the building one year ago.
"Reliable brought in their equipment, so their future employees could train on that equipment," Farley said.
The groups worked with the Center for Accelerated Technical Training to design the training program and "We provided the steel and [other materials] for other employees to train on," Farley added. "Reliable had a monumental training need and we saw a way to help them do that," Farley said. The impact of Reliable on the local economy is hard to underestimate, Farley said
"They've pumped millions of dollars into the economy...and, those 530 new jobs created demand for services, so the rest of the business sector comes forward to meet those needs," building restaurants and other businesses, Farley explained.
"Well today, with the advent of Reliable, shucks, it's hard to find a parking space downtown," he said.