ANDERSON-- People looking for work in Anderson County were eager to learn more about a paper products plant that state officials said Friday eventually will employ 1,000 people.
"You know a number to call?" asked T.J. Evans, a 27-year-old electrician who has been looking for work for three weeks.
Evans and others seeking assistance at the Anderson County employment office said they would like to apply for work at First Quality Enterprises Inc.
Gov. Mark Sanford and other officials were on hand Friday to announce that the Great Neck, N.Y.-based company is investing $1 billion to convert a former BASF plant into a series of buildings that will make paper towels, toilet paper, diapers and feminine hygiene products.
Manufacturing jobs have been on the decline in Anderson and across the state for several years and the jobless rate has soared to record highs. Anderson County's unemployment rate was 12.5 percent in March, a little higher than the statewide rate of 12.2 percent.
"This is good news in bad times," U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told a crowd of about 100 people at the Anderson Civic Center, where the plant was announced. "This is jobs for people who don't have jobs."
The facility is the largest single investment in Anderson County, but Graham said it's just part of the battle of recovering job losses from the past few years. "A lot of people, even after this announcement, are hurting," he said.
Production jobs at the plant will pay more than $17 an hour, said Kara Borie, a spokeswoman for the state Commerce Department, and the plant will have engineering positions that will pay significantly more.
Hiring will begin this summer with the first 200 positions, Borie said. Company spokesman Frank Ludovina said the first production line should start up a year later, in the third quarter 2011.
James Harrison, 21, an unemployed forklift operator, said he has been frustrated looking for work for the past couple of months. "It's kind of making me mad, because there's just a lack of jobs out here," he said.
Harrison said he would be interested in working at the new plant, but he needs something soon. His wife recently started working at an Arby's restaurant, and the couple have two children.
"I really just want to stay in Anderson," he said.