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Economic developments in the Charleston metro area

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Airplane plant to land in Charleston

$300 million complex to hire 645 and supply components to Boeing

BY JOHN P. MCDERMOTT

Of The Post and Courier Staff

airplant.jpg

A Texas aircraft parts maker has picked a site at Charleston International Airport for a $300 million manufacturing complex that will employ 645 workers, a cutting-edge project that the state hopes will fuel more jobs and investment for South Carolina.

The decision caps a nearly year-long site search by Dallas-based Vought Aircraft Industries Inc. and Italy's Alenia Aeronautica, which are forming a joint venture to supply Boeing Co. with highly sophisticated structural components for a new lightweight passenger jet.

Their new U.S. manufacturing plant, code-named Project Buffalo, will be built on undeveloped land near the entrance to Charleston International, according to a person familiar with the companies' plans. Gov. Mark Sanford and executives from Vought and Alenia are scheduled to announce details of the project, including hiring plans, Wednesday in North Charleston, that person said.

State lawmakers received invitations to the event Monday.

Boeing has tapped Vought and Alenia to make about 26 percent of the fuselage and other structural components that will go into its 7E7 Dreamliner, a fuel-efficient widebody passenger jet designed to replace the 757 and 767. Boeing is Vought's biggest customer.

The 7E7 contract calls for the delivery of the first lightweight fuselage sections in 2006. Boeing hopes to complete the first of an estimated 3,500 Dreamliners in 2008.

Vought and Alenia also seriously considered a site near Mobile, Ala., but officials there abruptly withdrew from the negotiations two months ago. The Global TransPark near Kinston, N.C., emerged as another potential finalist for the plant, and Vought's home state of Texas also pursued the project.

While details have not been finalized, Vought and Alenia will likely require a fabrication plant where they will build sections of the 7E7, according to reports. The partnership also will operate an adjacent "integration" center where pieces will be fused together and equipped with hydraulic systems, tubing and insulation.

The Dreamliner is being closely watched within the aerospace industry because its assembly marks a radical departure from traditional aircraft manufacturing. For example, major components will be made offsite by suppliers and flown to Washington state for final installation. Many of the structural pieces will snap together.Also, about half of the airframe, including the wings and the parts that Vought and Alenia will manufacture, will be formed not from aluminum but from lightweight composites, such as carbon fiber and resin epoxies, to reduce fuel consumption.

Noting that the bulk of the materials research will be based in Charleston, economic development sources said the region will likely attract additional investment and jobs from other aerospace companies and other manufacturers, such as carmakers, interested in using those materials.

Vought and Alenia plan to build their manufacturing complex on property owned by the Charleston County Aviation Authority, near the Trident Research Authority campus on International Boulevard. The permitting process is to begin after this week's formal announcement. Sam Hoerter, airports director for Charleston County, declined to comment Monday.

Vought has said the availability of tax breaks and other financial assistance would weigh heavily in its site selection. Tom Risley, the company's chief executive, said this summer that the winning location must have the necessary funding in place and that he did not want to wait for legislation to be passed.

That prerequisite might have given South Carolina one of its biggest edges over competing states. At the Commerce Department's behest, lawmakers this year quietly passed a bill that provides up to $50 million in bond funding for businesses that invest in a major air cargo facility. The Vought-Alenia venture would qualify for the assistance if it operates at least 20 flights a week from Charleston.

Sen. Larry Grooms, who supported the bill, said last month that the legislation was tailored for an unidentified prospect and was deliberately buried in an unrelated piece of tax legislation so as not to tip off competitors. Grooms also said he understood that the relatively swift passage of the bill "made a tremendous impact" on the business the state was targeting.

The Vought-Alenia joint venture also will likely qualify for a relatively new tier of incentives that allows the state to spend up to $250 million on roads, rail improvements, land and certain other needs for large employers that meet certain investment and hiring thresholds. To date, automaker BMW is the only company that has qualified for that funding.

Vought spokeswoman Lynne Warne declined to comment Monday.

Within economic development circles, the project represents a major consolation prize for South Carolina. A year ago, the state Commerce Department and Charleston County were pitching the 500-acre airport site to Boeing in an effort to win the 7E7 final assembly plant and the 1,200 jobs that it would have created. Instead, the plane maker decided last December to build the facility in Everett, Wash., the longtime home of its commercial aircraft business.

When Vought and Alenia launched their search, they started with Boeing's top picks because their basic requirements were so similar. For instance, the companies need to be near a long runway because many of the large components they will handle will be transported from an Alenia plant in Italy on specially modified 747 cargo planes. They also have to be close to a deepwater port because some materials will be brought in by ships.

"Charleston was a very close second in the Boeing deliberations ... and really impressed not only the Boeing folks but also other 7E7 team members, including ... suppliers," a person familiar with the negotiations said.

This person said certain "intangible" advantages also played a role. Alenia executives, for example, "fell in love with Charleston because of its international flavor and international appeal."

http://www.charleston.net/stories/113004/loc_30vought.shtml

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Bumping this up to update...the new aircraft plant is going to be worth $500-600 million, plus additional provisions are going to include an extension of Charleston International Airport's ramp.

This coincides with the new parking garage that is being built there.

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Charleston economy powers rest of state

Lowcountry has roared back since military base closed in mid-1990s

By JIM DuPLESSIS

Staff Writer

Charleston’s landscape is changing.

The old Cooper River bridges will be falling, replaced by the towering eight-lane bridge connecting downtown Charleston with Mount Pleasant scheduled to open in May or June.

In the next 10 years, expect the industrial landscape of warehouses and stacks of truck-trailer-size shipping containers in “The Neck” — the area where Charleston meets North Charleston — to be replaced by shops and homes, said Frank Hefner, an economist at the College of Charleston.

The changes on the surface are signs of economic shifts below.

Charleston has emerged from setbacks in the mid-1990s with faster growth in jobs and pay than its S.C. metro area neighbors, Columbia and Greenville.

Charleston powers state's economy

This is proof that the Trident economy is not all tourism. Nor does the area seem to "suffer" from too much historic preservation.

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The shift in Charleston's job base has been dramatic. I didn't realize it changed so much. The article says that it went from 3% below the state's average wages to 3% above it in about 8 years. You can't have that kind of increase with only retail jobs. I think we tend to over look Charleston becuase its center is the historic area as opposed to an obvious business center like Columbia.

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This is proof that the Trident economy is not all tourism.  Nor does the area seem to "suffer" from too much historic preservation. 

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Your right, the economy is not all tourism, but if you look at economic reports on Charleston, you will see that tourism is still the #1 source of the area's economic income. That is changing, and this article is DEFINITELY good news. However, the city still has a ways to go. The Vought airplane plant is a big step, but there is a need for more high-paying jobs in the DT area. That is where SKYSCRAPERS might need to be considered, but NOT near the historic district.

I'm feeling just like krazeeboi here. :lol: Preservation is essential, yes, but let's not think that constant preservation of everything is a good thing. You can always have too much of a "good" thing, anyway. ;)

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belated thread covering this project

Great shots of the construction here:

http://www.voughtaircraft.com/gallery/loca...s/locations.htm

The 'Buffalo' Has Landed

Something of keen interest in this article I had not yet heard about myself.

The physical scale of the Alenia-Vought operation could also get larger. South Carolina's incentives contract includes the possibility of adding the 7E7's cockpit work. That increased work load would create some 250 additional jobs in a 100,000-sq.-ft. (9,000-sq.-m.) Charleston plant, Risley said.

The state has agreed to provide an additional $15 million in subsidies if Alenia-Vought lands the 7E7 cockpit assignment. And South Carolina would provide $29 million more in incentives if the operation's total employment reaches 1,400.

Alenia may also add a separate plant at the site. The Charleston operation, which will be the Italian firm's first U.S. manufacturing presence, is an important part of Alenia's effort to land the U.S. military's $5-billion contract to build the C-27J Spartan cargo plane. Alenia and Airbus are competing to land that contract, which will be awarded in 2006.

If the Italian firm lands the C-27J assignment, the Alenia-Vought team's selection of the Charleston site could figure prominently in the ensuing site selection. The South Carolina tract, said Assereto, will now be among the front-runners for Alenia's C-27J plant.

Press releases:

12/01/04 - Vought Announces Site Location for 7E7 Work, Will Form Joint Venture with Alenia North America, Inc.

02/07/05 - Groundbreaking Occurs as Alenia, Vought Form Global Aeronautica, LLC In Support of Boeing 787 Work

10/17/05 - Vought Announces Production Suppliers to Support its 787 Dreamliner Work Share

Edited by MikesLogic

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Vought has installed and tested the worlds largest autoclave at their Charleston location. This is used in the manufacturing of the composites that make up the 787. The composites make the 787 fuel efficient and also make it stronger than traditional craft.

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Hey Mike, I've seen the pictures of the autoclave and the rest of the facility. It looks very impressive! I can't wait to see the finished product and what happens with the additional workforce locating to Charleston. I hope most of them buy a home West Ashley within Chas city limits! :D

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Wait a minute, West Ashley is growing as well. It gets overlooked a bit, but Mt. P is starting to max out, and West Ashley has plenty of new homes and neighborhoods that are being built. Also, West Ashley is a far more convenient commute for the workers to the new facility. From Glenn McConnell Parkway, the plant would only be 20 minutes. If they lived East Cooper, it would be 25-30 minutes, maybe 40 with all the insane traffic on the Mark Clark. Mt. P is overrated, IMO.

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Mount Pleasant also puts a cap on its building permits, so that helps to rein in growth there, SOMEWHAT.

yeah sort of...I kinda lump Daniel Island and Clements Ferry Road all into Mount Pleasant. And from what I can see Clements Ferry road is about to explode. I rode up that way last week and there are probably 8 new subdivisions breaking ground over there. Most of that land is in the City of Charleston or Berkley County, outside of Mt Ps' permit Cap trap.

West Ahsley may become a contender, with the Carolina Bay subdivison kicking off, but other than that, there aren't't a lot new homes available. Hunt Club is filling up and Grand Oaks is filled. I know they are planning a gigantic subdivison between Hunt Club and Village Green, but I'm not sure when that will kick off. As far as new units, its either Mt Pleasant, or Dorchester or Berkeley County .

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yeah sort of...I kinda lump Daniel Island and Clements Ferry Road all into Mount Pleasant. And from what I can see Clements Ferry road is about to explode. I rode up that way last week and there are probably 8 new subdivisions breaking ground over there. Most of that land is in the City of Charleston or Berkley County, outside of Mt Ps' permit Cap trap.

West Ahsley may become a contender, with the Carolina Bay subdivison kicking off, but other than that, there aren't't a lot new homes available. Hunt Club is filling up and Grand Oaks is filled. I know they are planning a gigantic subdivison between Hunt Club and Village Green, but I'm not sure when that will kick off. As far as new units, its either Mt Pleasant, or Dorchester or Berkeley County.

See, I've always lumped Daniel Island and Cainhoy (Clements Ferry) as their own sections, primarily because they are in the city of Charleston. Mt. P I always think of as its own town.

West Ashley has Carolina Bay and other places being built around Bees Ferry Road. The new subdivisions do include around Hunt Club and Village Green. West Ashley often gets overlooked because its the oldest suburb in Charleston.

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See, I've always lumped Daniel Island and Cainhoy (Clements Ferry) as their own sections, primarily because they are in the city of Charleston. Mt. P I always think of as its own town.

West Ashley has Carolina Bay and other places being built around Bees Ferry Road. The new subdivisions do include around Hunt Club and Village Green. West Ashley often gets overlooked because its the oldest suburb in Charleston.

I agree. I always think of them as their own area, separate from Mt Pleaseant. I will defer to the local consent on this though.

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^ Hey, don't I count as a local? :D I know, technically I'm not a current local, but I lived in Chas for mostly 24 years. Most of my family lives there and we go down there fairly regularly to visit them and some good friends from my church.

From talking with some current locals, Mt. P is on its own, but yet there are others who see them as a joint unit. I think that confuses things because it mixes areas in 2 different municipalities.

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^^ it may have been its own area, but with Mt Pleasant going all the way up hwy 41 to the wando and clements ferry development reaching out to meet it, they are about to grow together at least. But also, the character of development in that area is compatible with the development in Mt P. Its Technically not Mt P, but awful close.

Edited by Infinite1

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^ Hey, don't I count as a local? :D I know, technically I'm not a current local, but I lived in Chas for mostly 24 years. Most of my family lives there and we go down there fairly regularly to visit them and some good friends from my church.

From talking with some current locals, Mt. P is on its own, but yet there are others who see them as a joint unit. I think that confuses things because it mixes areas in 2 different municipalities.

Thats what I meant. I don't konw the area as well as you or anyone else that actually lives there, so I just offer my opinion. I will gladly accept whatever you locals decide. :thumbsup:

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Does not seem to be a big deal after reading that article. No jobs are affected anyways

Bullard said the move would have no impact on the number of jobs in Florence

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^ The relocation of Polymer, believe it or not, is not a surprise. Polymer has had some financial problems dating back to 2000, and it was becoming obvious the company would have to make certain changes to offset them. This is unfortunate, but I don't think it's serious at all. The good news to this move is that the company did not leave Chas for "greener pastures". They didn't leave the area because of any negatives associated with it. The move was merely a consolidation of operations.

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Polymer has a major manufacturing operation north of Charlotte in Mooresville, and they are currently expanding it. It makes sense to consolidate it near there. Because of that I don't think they will relocate in the SC locale the Observer mentioned.

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BBT Moves Coastal HQ to Charleston

Frankly, I didn't know Florence even was the Coastal Region HQ for BB&T. There doesn't appear to be a loss of jobs to Florence, so it could be worse. Of course, I wonder if that will be the case long-term.

I say this will be a plus for both cities. Considering Florence's potential, I think BB&T will want to stay in the market for future growth. I think merely the fact that Florence won't lose any jobs even though they're losing an HQ says alot about BB&T's intentions.

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