The ripple effect of Detroit’s auto industry rebound reached Laurinburg Wednesday, as FCC broke ground on a new plant.
As they look to meet increased demand for their transmission parts, FCC will create a minimum of 66 new jobs at the new $41 million paper plant and invest as much $80 million in the county altogether.
According to FCC’s Bob Kendall, the administration senior manager for the company’s Fieldcrest Road plant, both Ford and Chrysler motor companies recently became customers, creating a demand for their clutch friction discs that called for expanded operations in North America.
“We’re expanding because our business has increased dramatically with new customers Ford and Chrysler. The auto industry has come back strong from the recession and some suppliers didn’t make it through, and the ones that did are in a great position,” Kendall said.
Because the demand for their parts is immediate, FCC has made completing the plant quickly a top priority, with a projected opening date of March 2014.
FCC first set up shop in Laurinburg in 2000, initially making motorcycle clutches and friction discs.
Those friction discs can be found inside the transmissions of every Honda automobile in both the United States and Canada, Kendall told the assembly of community and FCC officials gathered for Wednesday’s groundbreaking.
The new facility will house the company’s highly secretive paper processing operation, which manufactures the surface for the friction discs used inside of auto clutches.
“It’s a very special paper and the heart and soul of any business like ours that makes transmissions,” Kendall said.
Words of gratitude directed toward FCC filled the morning air during the groundbreaking ceremony, with Laurinburg Mayor Tommy Parker and Board of Commissioners Chairman Guy McCook thanking FCC for choosing Scotland County.
“Days like this mean a lot to our community,” McCook said. “It means people have faith in who we are and what we represent – in our work ethic. These types of projects mean more than jobs and infrastructure – they mean that we get to grow (and) that’s really what economic development is all about. … Scotland County has been through its ups and downs and we’ve proved that we are a place that welcomes industry and manufacturing and we want to continue to do that as we grow into the future.
“Thank you, thank you very much for choosing our community,” McCook said, addressing FCC North America’s top brass in the empty field adjacent to the recently-opened Small Business Innovation Center.
Parker said that he was “glad (FCC) chose to add the first new building to (the Small Business Innovation Center’s) industrial site.
“The city wants to be a good neighbor. Anything we can do to assist (FCC) we will try to do. We are glad (FCC) chose Scotland County and Laurinburg to expand,” Parker said.
According to county Economic Developer Greg Icard, FCC might have decided to go elsewhere had the city and county not moved fast to assure the company that they could provide for the paper plant’s massive water and sewer needs.
“We were fortunate to already have the (Small Business Innovation Center) in place and for the effort put in by both the city and the county,” Icard said. “It’s a great day for FCC, Scotland County, for the city of Laurinburg and all those involved in this process.”
In addition to their commitment to meeting the infrastructure needs of FCC, Kendall said that the community’s workforce was integral to his company’s final decision.
“The county and the city have bent over backwards … but the thing that appealed to us most was our workforce here that has really done an excellent job of building our business. That’s why we chose Scotland County. The excellent workforce.
About 180 are currently employed at the existing facility on Fieldcrest Road.