From staff reports
Published: Tuesday, January 19, 2016 at 3:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 19, 2016 at 3:09 p.m.
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Textiles fed local industry for more than a century. Now, a new fiber will help feed Spartanburg County's economy.
State and local officials on Tuesday joined with executives from Toray Industries to break ground on the Japanese manufacturer's $1.4 billion plant that will be constructed on 400 acres near the intersection of highways 290 and 221 in Moore.
The project, which was announced in February 2014, is South Carolina's largest initial investment in a new production facility ever. It will initially create about 500 jobs.
Akihiro Nikkaku, president and CEO of Toray, said the plant is expected to begin operations in summer 2017. It will specialize in the production of precast and prepreg carbon fiber for the company's customers in North America, including Boeing's facility in North Charleston, which will use it in its 787 Dreamliner and new 777x passenger jet
“Toray is and will continue to be the world leader in carbon fiber, both in quality and capacity,” Nikkaku said. “Outside of Japan, this new site will be Toray's only fully-integrated carbon fiber facility… We are all excited about this historic South Carolina project that will open a new chapter in Toray's 97th anniversary year.”
Tuesday's ceremony marked another milestone in a project that leaders said required several years of hard work, pooling resources and a lot of teamwork.
“When we look back this was a long time coming. There were a lot of years, talks and relationships and things we had to build to get to this point,” S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley said. “They care about the quality of their product. They care about the ability to have a workforce that can maintain their reputation. They cared about the community they were going to live in. And they wanted to be actively involved and be in a community that would accept them back.”
Shortly after the company's initial announcement, officials said Toray became interested in locating a facility in South Carolina after Boeing started looking at bringing production to Charleston.
Toray initially looked at sites in both Carolinas and was being aggressively pursued by Decatur, Ala., where it established a large manufacturing facility in 1999.
During the next six years, S.C. Department of Commerce officials convinced the company to stick with South Carolina. The company was first courted by Richland and Orangeburg counties, with Orangeburg the heavy favorite.
But a trip to Spartanburg, which included a tour of the site and BMW Manufacturing Co., led the company to make its decision final.
“We intend not only to make them successful, but we will validate their decision at every turn,” said Spartanburg County Councilman David Britt. “Spartanburg County builds the finest automobile in the world. We will now build the finest carbon fiber for the finest airplane in the world… The ripple effect that this is going to have on the economy is going to be huge.”
During the ceremony, Toray executives presented $12,500 checks to four local charities: The Hope Center for Children, St. Luke's Free Medical Clinic, Mobile Meals and the Chapman Cultural Center.
Nikkaku said the plant will use the S.C. Ports Authority's inland port near Greer via a rail line that runs near the back of the property. Toray acquired the site from Pacolet Milliken Enterprises in July 2014 for $10 million, according to county property records.
Officials said they anticipate Toray's impact on the county and potential for future growth will be similar to BMW.
The company said it has begun hiring for the facility.