ORANGEBURG — The need for durable housing that unskilled laborers can erect in less than a day has brought a Toronto-based company to South Carolina.
Innovative Composites International on Thursday opened its flagship $9.3 million, 126,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Orangeburg.
The company will build the components for hurricane- and earthquake-resistant houses that can be used in places such as the Caribbean rim and South America where housing is expensive and natural disasters plentiful; places such as an Olympic village where affordable temporary housing is needed for athletes and support staff; and even in the United States, offering buyers an affordable option.
During the ceremony Thursday, workers built a 500-square-foot house to show the efficiency and simplicity of the process. Workers started construction – which consists largely of lifting walls and attaching them – as the ceremony started at 2:45 p.m. They were expected to be finished by dark – less than five hours later.
The company makes house kits for structures up to 1,500 square feet.
The plant will ship components through the Port of Charleston to destinations around the world. The facility will hire 300 people over five years and have the capacity to produce up to 5,000 of the durable homes a year when it reaches full capacity.
While the houses, which average between $40,000 and $50,000 to build, are mainly destined for overseas currently, company CEO Terry Ball said the construction is being adapted for non-tropical climates such as in parts of North America and other locations.
The plant initially will build homes for a housing project in Antigua but is exploring opportunities in South America, South Korea, Iraq and Algeria, company officials said.
Orangeburg was a natural choice for the plant in part because it is just an hour from the Port of Charleston, according to company officials.
“When we were taking a look at where our customers were going to be, we knew that initially the production was going to be in the Caribbean, Haiti, et cetera,” Ball said. “So we needed a port. When we evaluated all the effectiveness of all the ports, this area was the best.”
Innovative Composites International is the third Canadian-based company to locate in the Orangeburg Industrial Park, a joint city/county venture.
Orangeburg County, like other counties in the state, has been plagued by chronically high unemployment in the wake of the Great Recession, and jobless numbers still hover between 13 percent and 14 percent.
The plant Innovative Composites International occupies was vacated by the DANA Corp., which formerly made automotive parts for BMW at the site. When the economy nearly stopped during the downturn, the company closed and its operations were consolidated elsewhere, officials said.
The county put between $200,000 and $300,000 in tax break incentives on the table over 10 years, including lowering the manufacturing assessment on the company from 10.5 percent to 6 percent, to lure the plant to the region, said Gregg Robinson, Orangeburg County Development Commission executive director.
The state also kicked in about $17 million in incentives.
Courtesy of The State (Columbia, South Carolina) on April 20.
Also picked up by Spartanburg Herald Journal on April 23.