The Lowcountry aerospace industry continued to spread its wings Friday after an aerospace industry supplier said it will invest $2.5 million and create 44 jobs in Colleton County.
Palmetto Aero, which makes and produces sheet metal fasteners and airframe components, will build a 77,000-square-foot hangar at the Lowcountry Regional Airport in Walterboro to make its products, including the Air Truck, a single-engine, utility-type aircraft.
The company also has acquired two existing hangars at the airport complex. They will act as the company's headquarters and research and development facilities. Colleton County's former World War II hangar nearby will serve as the completion and delivery center, electronics installation and repair operation for the company.
"While Palmetto Aero is a new company, we have been in the aviation manufacturing business in Ohio since 1979," said Dennis Dent, chairman and CEO of Palmetto Aero. He is also president and CEO of Canton, Ohio-based Airfasco. The two companies are separate.
"We looked at many possible locations to launch our new venture and found the Lowcountry Regional Airport to have the best mix of advantages that we sought," Dent said. "The airport and community are poised for growth, and we look forward to getting in on the 'ground floor.' The location is also ideal for the aerospace market with Air Truck, Boeing and Gulfstream and utilizing the Port of Charleston for the world market."
The company does not supply Boeing, but it would like to, according to Heyward Horton, Colleton County economic development director. Boeing makes parts for and assembles the 787 Dreamliner in North Charleston as well as Everett, Wash.
Dent declined further comment on his company when called Friday, but Horton said Dent was hosting a booth at the 2011 Paris Air Show when Gov. Nikki Haley approached him about locating his company in the Palmetto State.
"I think that encounter had an impact on Dennis and his ultimate choice when he could have chosen to locate just about anywhere," Horton said.
"One of the more exciting things about the project to me is they will be fabricating an aircraft here in Walterboro, the Air Truck. It's a small forestry-type aircraft," Horton said. "We think they will grow once they get established. We are excited about the possibilities for future growth."
The investment is part of more than 300 jobs Haley announced for five rural counties in southeastern South Carolina.
"It's huge for the rural parts of our state," the governor said.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.