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December 8, 2020
The arrival of Teijin Carbon Fibers (TCF) in South Carolina has had a positive economic impact on the Greenwood community, and the ripple effects of the company’s investment in the area can best be exhibited through its relationship with Piedmont Technical College (PTC). PTC officials are proud to contribute to and be at the forefront of an emerging revolution in domestic advanced manufacturing, a movement which will increase the United States’ competitiveness in the international marketplace. The strong training partnership between PTC and TCF is educating the next generation for well-paying and high-demand jobs right now while preparing the region’s workforce for incalculable opportunities in the future.
“The adage that a rising tide lifts all boats truly applies here,” said Rusty Denning, Associate Vice President of Economic Development and Continuing Education at PTC. “Construction on Teijin’s $600 million manufacturing facility alone created hundreds of jobs. With the plant nearing completion, the company is filling 80 positions initially to operate its first line of production, and 98% of those hired hail from our seven-county service area, including PTC graduates.”
Through a partnership with the PTC, TCF is training its recent hires at the college’s new William H. “Billy” O’Dell Upstate Center for Manufacturing Excellence. In particular, the employees can utilize PTC’s Mechatronics Program, which provides a comprehensive curriculum that combines elements of electronics, pneumatics, hydraulics, mechanics, IT, computers and robotics. The cutting-edge Mechatronics Program has been producing graduates with the advanced skill sets TCF needs as it grows its domestic and global presence.
“Our relationship with PTC is very foundational for the start-up and onboarding of our team,” said TCF Human Resources Manager Lauren Malone. “It has been our home away from home. It really is an extension of us.”
As they ease into their new positions at TCF, trainees also are indirectly receiving a lesson in global manufacturing competitiveness. Utilizing pro-growth and pro-business tools, like the Commerce Department’s Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) program, Teijin can stay competitive in the growing global carbon fiber market while investing continually in the Greenwood community.
Teijin’s investment here in Greenwood will increase the annual U.S. production capacity of carbon fiber by nearly 10%. Locally, tax revenue from the plant is projected to peak at $18 million the first year, with labor income reaching $80 million the first year and $21 million for every subsequent year, providing PTC graduates, and others in the region, with access to quality, high-paying jobs. Additionally, Teijin’s full-capacity presence in Greenwood will add incentive to negotiations with other multinational manufacturers who consider investing and building production facilities in the region.
“Of course, that’s what free-market competition is designed to do. It encourages competition based on price and innovation,” Denning said.
With a strong manufacturing industry cluster thriving in the Upstate, Teijin is positioned to be an important advanced materials supplier in South Carolina and beyond. In addition, the plant will fill the need for an additional robust carbon fiber supply chain produced right here in the United States.
As the application process plays out, PTC students are getting an impromptu lesson in free-market economies. They understand that FTZ approval will facilitate expansion opportunities for TCF as well as job and industry advancement opportunities for them, perhaps even internationally.
The TCF relationship with PTC in Greenwood may be in the early stages, but the far-reaching potential on both sides is enormous. Even the longest journey requires first steps, and those are being taken in stride together on the O’Dell Center training floor.
TCF Shift Leader Jason Parris also studies business at PTC. He knows value when he sees it and recognized it immediately at the O’Dell Center.
“When we did our walk-through, we were really impressed,” he said. “It is real clean, and we liked the layout of it.” Fellow Shift Leader Kevin Cromer agreed. “We were amazed at what we saw in the mechatronics lab,” he said.
Operator I Blake McCarty, a current PTC mechatronics student, is already employed with Teijin. He got his start through PTC’s Dual Enrollment Program while still in high school.
Maintenance Technician Greyham Rushton is a PTC Mechatronics Program graduate and has been very satisfied with his experience. “In mechatronics, instructor Charles Todd helped me out so much,” Rushton said. “I like the smaller classes. He taught me in a way I could really understand. If I had any issues, he would stay for as long as it took to clear them up.”
The post-hire training conducted at the O’Dell Center in October focused on fire safety, forklift, and first responder instruction. Malone remarked that training instructor Bill Heath and his wife Susan Heath with readySC™ customized the content just for Teijin. “Bill always makes them smile and engage,” Malone said. “Some of that stuff can be pretty dry. It has done nothing but enhance the culture we are trying to build here in manufacturing.”
“Personally, I don’t think there is any better experience,” Rushton said, “and I really liked the team-building.”
Malone says that everyone hired at Teijin in Greenwood so far has been local and many educated at PTC.
“We have been very intentional with every person we have brought on our team,” she said. “The Mechatronics Program provides a knowledge base that is going to be applicable in different parts of our process. That will help us accelerate our start-up. … I cannot say enough about Susan Heath, Rusty Denning and Dr. Brooks. They have done so much to support us over the past two-and-a-half years. We are very thankful for this partnership.”