By Liz Segrist
Published June 27, 2012
America is experiencing a renaissance in manufacturing, said Mike McCormick, the vice president and technical plant manager of Bosch Rexroth in Fountain Inn.
“The challenge, that we face here, is the skilled labor that we need to run that and manage that growth is not coming online,” McCormick said. “I see that this renaissance in manufacturing could burn itself out, meaning the fuel of skilled labor is limited.”
A strong workforce and more venture capital are crucial components to continuing recruitment efforts to and company expansions within Greenville County and beyond, according to panelists at a Greenville Area Development Corp. event Wednesday.
Panelists McCormick, CertusBank co-CEO Walter Davis and Sage Automotive Interiors COO Brian McSharry discussed why they decided to locate or expand their respective companies in Greenville County, and the challenges they expect to face in the future.
The ability of S.C. government and economic development agencies to act quickly on their pro-business promises were a major pull for these companies, as well as available buildings, industry success and downtown Greenville itself.
The Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research was the determining factor for Sage Automotive to locate its headquarters in Greenville. CU-ICAR can offer industry and academia input on the future of the automobile, which gives Sage a competitive edge, McSharry said.
But when Sage made the move from Milliken’s Automotive Division in 2008, the company was denied capital by 56 banks before finding private equity capital from the Azalea Group. McSharry said South Carolina needs more private equity and venture capital.
“If there’s not capital in South Carolina, you won’t grow companies in South Carolina,” McSharry said. “It’s nice to have cheap labor, it’s nice to have incentives, but if you don’t have capital, you can’t preserve the industry that you do have.”
Bosch Rexroth already had a presence in Fountain Inn and was able to make its largest invest in the Americas as of yet — $80 million — when it doubled its hydraulics manufacturing facility last November. The available building for its expansion and land for its campus proved a competitive advantage for the company, making the decision easier.
To address the workforce issues, Rexroth implemented an apprenticeship program for machinists about five years ago, which doubled in accepted participants this year, said Mike Bryan, Bosch Rexroth apprentice training specialist.
Apprentices can complete a two-year certification at Greenville Technical College while also receiving on-the-job training and payment.
“It’s an important step, but it’s not enough,” McCormick said.
As for Davis, he decided to return home to Greenville and bring the CertusBank headquarters with him, acquiring banks along the way to become the fourth largest financial institution in the state.
Davis was attracted to the downtown area where he could have a prominent location, which became a reality with the Project One mixed-use development that’s currently under construction.
Davis’ concerns of the future are due to the sluggish economic recovery.
“Even though the economy of Greenville and the state of South Carolina is moving forward, overall, it really isn’t,” Davis said. “For businesses, people say banks aren’t lending. They are. It’s that the criteria are just a little different now.”
Read the full story in the July 16 issue of GSA Business. Subscribe here.