A local producer of steel components for military vehicles and other uses will expand into a sprawling building in Ladson where General Dynamics will stop making armored vehicles by year's end.
Goose Creek-based Pegasus Steel plans to expand and shift some of its heavy steel-plate fabrication operations into General Dynamics' Force Protection plant on U.S. Highway 78 over the next few months, company President and CEO Tony Deering said Wednesday.
"We have been their largest provider of steel fabrication components for the last six years," he said of Force Protection. "We have aggressively pursued this opportunity to maintain this capacity in our hometown."
Deering declined to give the dollar investment or the number of jobs that would be created. A formal announcement with more details will be made Friday at the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce.
Pegasus Steel specializes in cutting and forming steel from both sheet and heavy plates in all grades of material, including stainless steel and aluminum.
Founded in 1994 by Deering and Alex Russell, Pegasus Steel operates out of a 104,000-square-foot building in Crowfield. Local operations began in 2007 with a handful of employees. It now has more than 200, Deering said.
"We have traditionally grown our business 30 percent year over year," he added.
Pegasus produces components for defense, shipbuilding, power generation and commercial uses. In addition to expanding to the Ladson site, Pegasus also could expand at its Goose Creek operation, Deering said.
"We will assess over the next several months what our needs are," he said. "That will give us a better understanding of what our manpower requirements will be. We are committed to hiring as many of the current workers there (at General Dynamics) as required."
The company also has an arm of the business called Pegasus Nuclear, which provides parts for nuclear aircraft carriers and submarines. Deering declined to say if the operation on the former Navy base is being absorbed into the Goose Creek site.
With its existing base of commercial customers, those involved in the naval arena and possible new military contracts, Deering said the opportunity exists to operate at capacity in the Force Protection plant.
Pegasus will continue to make parts for mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, or MRAPs, and other vehicles at the Ladson site, he said.
"The market is evolving, and the theater of operations is evolving," Deering said. Pegasus intends to supply parts for a variant of the MRAP used by United Nations' peacekeeping forces in parts of Africa, he added.
Virginia-based General Dynamics will lay off 75 percent of the 226 workers at the 400,000-square-foot Force Protection plant by December because of reduced military spending and the loss of a large defense contract to build more MRAPs at the site. Most of those - 143 - will be out of a job by June when production of the Buffalo armored vehicle ends.
But General Dynamics is not abandoning the building across from the Exchange Park Fairgrounds. It will share the leased facility with Pegasus. The remaining 50 or so General Dynamics workers will stay on site in a new "center of excellence," providing spare parts and supplies and offering field service support to domestic and international customers.
"We are working on a transition plan and will work hand-in-hand going forward," General Dynamics spokesman Pete Keating said. "It will be a wonderful arrangement and a win-win for the area."
At the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in 2007, the military vehicle-maker had as many as 2,000 employees making MRAPs.
General Dynamics bought Force Protection in 2011 for $360 million.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.
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