South Carolina's top-flight aerospace team got a boost from a hometown player Wednesday when The InterTech Group Inc. announced its subsidiary's plans for a major manufacturing facility in North Charleston that would bring 350 jobs to a region hungry for employment and new investment.
The plant will be the sixth location for InterTech aerospace subsidiary TigHitco and will be a supplier to aircraft makers throughout the Southeast, said executives of the global, family- owned holding company based in North Charleston.
Permits and elements of a local government financial incentive packages still must be approved, but the company expects to break ground at its 25-acre site along Palmetto Commerce Parkway by the end of the year.
The first of three phases of the $30 million to $40 million factory is expected to open in the fall of 2012. The factory will sit next to a series of recently announced data centers and across from the Daimler van making plant.
Though InterTech President Jonathan Zucker disclosed that TigHitco supplies parts for Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, and his mother, InterTech CEO Anita Zucker, called the new operation "a state-of-the-art composites manufacturing facility," they said they had not decided what precisely will be made there.
And they insisted that it was not Boeing, which has started assembling the first locally made 787 at its new plant next to the Charleston International Airport, that made them pick North Charleston.
Jonathan Zucker called Boeing "one of many customers," and said Boeing "had no involvement in our decision to build a facility here."
"I can report that we have components on the aircraft, but again they had no bearing on our decision to do business here," he said.
He and other company officials said the new plant is aimed at serving numerous aerospace companies in the Southeast, including the Gulfstream Aerospace aircraft plant in Savannah and a Spirit Aerosystems plant in North Carolina.
"The state of South Carolina and Charleston County put together the right incentive package. That's one reason," said Jay Tiedemann, InterTech's executive vice president and chief operating officer.
Without offering specifics, he said state and county governments have offered workforce training and a fee-in-lieu of tax arrangement, "standard incentives that any business like ours would receive."
Also, Tiedemann said, "it's in our backyard, so obviously it's easier for us to assist and oversee businesses we own when they're within a few minutes drive of our offices."
"The real driving force is we have other customers who are asking us to take on work that we don't have space for," he said. "The fact that Boeing is here is an added bonus to us."
At a business luncheon after the announcement, Anita Zucker, widow of InterTech founder Jerry Zucker, made a point of thanking Boeing for being a longtime customer and called the aviation giant's expansion to South Carolina a catalyst for projects like TigHitco's facility.
Hiring won't start until the building is further along, Tiedemann said, but about 20 percent of the hires are expected to be engineers and other highly skilled technical workers.
Anita Zucker promised "not just blue-collar jobs but engineering jobs, administrative jobs and highly skilled production jobs."
The state-run ReadySC will provide workforce training for TigHitco. Zucker said she is on the governing board of Trident Technical College, where ReadySC is training future Boeing employees to build airplanes.
Zucker said her company's leaders have met with Jim Maxon, project director for the Boeing ReadySC project, on a regular basis.
Jonathan Zucker said ReadySC's workforce training was "honestly a big factor" in picking South Carolina for TigHitco's latest site.
"We anticipate the possibility of bringing a couple managers in, but other than that we anticipate hiring locally," he said.
The first phase calls for a 120,000-square-foot building, which later could grow to 300,000 square feet, "based on our capacity utilization and based on the needs of our customers," he added.
"If we land the projects that we bid on and we need more space, then we'll add it as quickly as we need it," he said. "Two additional phases may turn into one if the space is needed that quickly."
TigHitco describes itself on its website as "an industry leader in the design and fabrication of engineering components for aerospace and industrial applications." Its Aerostructures Division is based in Berlin, Conn., and it also has facilities in Atlanta and Mexico.
The company makes all sorts of hard and soft aircraft parts, including high-temperature insulation fire protection systems, heat shields, doors, floors, exhaust systems, avionics racks and fuselage fairings.
South Carolina Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said the TigHitco facility will be a "good anchor" for the whole aviation-centered cluster at Palmetto Commerce Park, and he promised more announcements like Wednesday's coming soon.
The TigHitco deal was welcomed by other local politicians and economic development officials as well.
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey reminisced about a visit he once paid to a small church without an organ whose only music was one woman's singing.
"Today I feel like singing, 'We're blessed, we're blessed, we're blessed,' " Summey said, echoing that woman's lyrics.
Reach Brendan Kearney at 937-5906 and follow him at twitter.com/kearney_brendan.