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No Aiken-area companies pitched themselves for Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative project

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USCA, Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative, Sign (copy) (copy)

A sign at USC Aiken, near Trolley Line Road, advertises the future location of the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative. (Colin Demarest/Staff)

No companies based in the greater Aiken and Savannah River Site area formally pursued a contract to design and build the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative, a futuristic footprint planned for the USC Aiken campus, according to the Department of Energy.

No local firms submitted a so-called capability statement when the department, which oversees the Savannah River Site, in September 2020 published a request for information, a preliminary step in the federal contracting process.

The Energy Department’s nuclear cleanup office, Environmental Management, on April 1 selected North Wind Construction Services LLC as the team to handle the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative project moving forward. North Wind Construction Services is headquartered in Idaho.

A department spokesperson on Monday said an “assessment of North Wind’s capabilities determined they have a proven track record of working with DOE and successfully completing” projects similar to the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative, a years-in-the-making partnership between USCA and the Savannah River National Laboratory.

The April 1 announcement naming North Wind used similar wording.

The department expects the Idaho Falls-based contractor to “examine the use of local resources, including small businesses, to the maximum extent practicable to ensure cost efficiencies and good community relations,” the spokesperson said. 

Anne Smith, North Wind Group's director of communications and marketing, in a Tuesday email said the plan is to expand Aiken-area “engagement by hiring local first, as we have staffing needs.” A subcontracting strategy will prioritize “the local SB community,” Smith continued, “and we are exploring options for a virtual vendor outreach.”

North Wind has an office in Aiken. It was set up in 2014.

The contract to design and build the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative – a potentially $50 million facility, offering a bevy of research-and-development space – is bound by the Davis-Bacon Act. The law requires contractors and subcontractors to pay laborers and mechanics employed under the contract “no less than the locally prevailing wages and fringe benefits for corresponding work on similar projects in the area,” according to the Department of Labor.

“DOE cannot dictate who North Wind employs, but the contractor will have to comply with” the act, the Energy Department spokesperson noted.

Environmental Management received eight total capability statements related to the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative contract.

Construction of the AMC is expected to wrap in 2024. The initial turning of shovels could happen this year, in the fall, according to USC Aiken Chancellor Dr. Sandra Jordan.

Colin Demarest covers the Savannah River Site, the Energy Department, its NNSA, and government and politics, in general. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin.

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