Monday, September 27, 2010

Jafza prepares for construction, seeks tenants

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ILLUSTRATION SPECIAL TO THE T&DCounty officials say the planned Jafza Enterprise Center will show the 1,322-acre logistics, manufacturing and distribution park is open for business.

As Jafza South Carolina LLC plans for the construction of a new building at its 1,322-acre park in Santee, officials say they're also preparing for bigger things to come.

Senior Vice President Clint Murphy says there's been considerable interest in the company's plans for a logistics, manufacturing and distribution park at the site.

"We have written numerous proposals for tenants to locate in our Phase 1," he said. "Several of these proposals are still active and we remain optimistic that we can sign an agreement in 2011."

Murphy said assuming an agreement is signed in 2011, a manufacturing facility typically takes a year to plan and construct.

Phase 1 of Jafza Magna park consists of 47 acres on the west side of Interstate 95, next to the Santee Town Hall, and 76 acres on the east side of I-95, behind the Santee Outlet Mall.

Jafza has met all the necessary regulatory requirements to begin development, including site certification, Murphy said.

To help create a "flagship building" for the project, Orangeburg County and Tri-County Electric Cooperative worked together get Jafza a no-interest federal loan for the construction of the "Jafza Enterprise Center" on 5 acres bordering interstate.

The 20,000-square-foot building will house Jafza offices, warehouse space and training facilities for Timmonsville-based Palmetto Training Inc. An estimated 10 to 15 people would be employed there.

Murphy said the company is looking to move its headquarters to the new building upon completion to better serve company clients and to have oversight of the project now that it is moving forward.

County officials say they expect the building to be a flagship, providing a visible indication that Jafza is open for business and committed to its plans for Orangeburg County.

Construction is expected to begin in October with a Jan. 1, 2011 opening.

Murphy declined to say how much it will cost to build the center.

"We don't discuss price," he said. "We won't know until bids come in and are properly evaluated."

As part of the loan agreement, Jafza will deed 5 acres to the county for the development of the structure, which will be located near Santee Town Hall and visible from Interstate 95.

The county is leasing that land back to Jafza with Jafza being responsible for construction. Jafza will have the sole responsibility for the building, including finding tenants and paying taxes.

n Palmetto Training

Palmetto Training provides classes in a number of fields, including industrial maintenance, carpentry, forklift operations, truck driving and welding, according to the company's website. It also has locations in Timmonsville, Charleston and Winnsboro.

Several calls and messages left over a period of a couple of weeks for PTI President Elmer E. Jackson were not returned.

In an interview last year with the Winnsboro-based Herald Independent newspaper, Jackson said he incorporated PTI in 1998 while he was working as a high school vocational educator.

In the interview, Jackson said Palmetto Training designs its curricula to meet identified employer needs.

Murphy said the center will provide specialized vocational training in areas such as excavation and heavy equipment usage, and possibly computer training.

Although local officials haven't had much experience with the company, Orangeburg County Development Commission Executive Director Gregg Robinson said Palmetto Training has a role to play in the county's economic development.

"Any type of training is good in my opinion," Robinson said. "People are learning a new skill set and now in this climate it is time to go back to school and learn a new skill. They will be a tenant in this new enterprise building and we hope they are successful."

Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College President Dr. Anne Crook initially expressed concerns about the county's plans to help finance a building that could house a private training firm, especially as OCtech is experiencing budget cuts.

Crook said she has no concerns about Palmetto Training being in the county. She says OCtech can provide the same training as Palmetto Training.

"We don't mind competition," Crook said. "From a competitive standpoint we feel like we do everything they do and probably better."

Crook said OCtech offers what is considered the "premiere" truck driving training in the state and that it recently added a state-of-the-art welding facility.

Crook says the college has an arrangement in place with sister colleges to provide heavy machinery training.

"Them being a part of the Jafza building does not mean they will be doing the training for Jafza," Crook said. She noted the state technical college system already provides training through the Ready South Carolina workforce force training program.

Crook said she has had conversations with the company but has never worked with the firm.

n Palmetto Training

in Fairfield County

Fairfield County cut the ribbon on a Palmetto Training facility in Winnsboro about a year ago.

Fairfield County Councilman David L. Ferguson Sr. says he became aware of Palmetto Training through his professional working relationship with Jackson while serving as a career education teacher in Sumter County.

So when the economic downturn hit, Ferguson said the county's One Stop Shop got in touch with Palmetto Training to help bring in specialized classes in carpentry, welding and other areas.

Palmetto Training began operations in the county about a year ago and graduated its first class of about 14 students about six weeks ago, said Ferguson.

Electricians, masons and carpenters were among the graduates.

"We are happy to have them in Fairfield County," he said, noting the county has lost three plants in the county over the past few years "Our unemployment rates are double digits. We are at odds of what to do."

"We wanted to bring all our workforce who was underemployed or unemployed brought up to a good skill standard," Ferguson said.

Ferguson said Palmetto Training serves as a stepping stone to more in-depth training provided by the technical college system.

"We have as good a career center in Fairfield County as any," he said. "We have tried to get kids in the certain level and send them onto Midlands Technical. He gets their feet wet."

Contact the writer: gzaleski@times or 803-533-5551.

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