Scott Smith isn’t the kind of guy to dilly-dally.
“We have a very decisive ownership group and board of directors, and when we see so many positive signs of an opportunity, we didn’t want to be dragging our feet,” Smith, the CEO of Impresa Aerospace, said of his California-based company’s decision to expand to Goose Creek.
It took Smith just 90 days from his first Charleston area visit to closing a deal to acquire the 7.5-acre former Dynamic Solutions LLC campus — including the real estate, machinery, equipment and employees — at 5 Corporate Parkway. The site makes metal parts for Boeing Co. and other airplane manufacturers.
“I’m hoping we set the record for being one of the most nimble, decisive enterprises to ever invest in South Carolina,” Smith said Thursday as Impresa held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the plant.
That fast turnaround might never have happened had it not been for a chance meeting between Smith and Becky Ford, director of business development programs for the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, at an industry conference in California a few months earlier.
“We go back to a lunch in Beverly Hills, of all places, and that’s where this started,” Smith said of the March conference.
Ford said she made her best sales pitch, pointing out all of the opportunities for aerospace suppliers in the Charleston region.
“Once we understood what Scott’s requirements were for a facility, we did a search throughout the region and came up with some options, and this was one of them,” she said.
Smith said his company “had a pre-existing interest in Charleston,” but Ford “validated a lot of what we were surmising from afar — the degree of Boeing’s investment here and the lack of services we provide being here. We felt there was an opportunity to be the first one to make the plunge and support Boeing and our other customers.”
Impresa has 23 workers at the Goose Creek site — its first on the East Coast — and plans to add 72 more over the next five years. Smith said the company has plans to expand the plant to 80,000 square feet, doubling its current space.
The company was established more than 50 years ago as Swift-Cor Aerospace and is now part of Twin Haven Capital Partners, a private-equity firm that has provided the financial backing to support Impresa’s expansion plans. In addition to its headquarters near Los Angeles, Impresa has a plant in Wichita, Kan.
The company plans to work closely with Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner plant in North Charleston, as well as aircraft manufacturers Spirit Aerosystems, Northrup Grumman, Sikorsky, Lockheed Martin, Goodrich and Gulfstream. Impresa makes thousands of parts “that go on everything Boeing makes, both commercially and for the military,” Smith said.
While the company has a reputation for quickly adapting to its own and its customers’ needs, Smith said even his staff was “stunned when I told them how fast we were going to try to expand” to the East Coast.
“I really like to think that the decisive, strategic nature of our actions is something that really is important to our customers,” Smith said. “Because we act the same way when we decide to invest in our customers’ programs.”
Smith said he found the pro-business attitude of state and local officials refreshing, coming from a state where regulation can stifle entrepreneurship.
“From my perspective of someone who’s leading a company that’s based in California, there’s a huge contrast in how a manufacturing company like ours gets treated, or sometimes mistreated, by the state and local governments in California to the welcoming and cooperative nature (of South Carolina),” he said. “It was remarkable the contrast for me, as someone who spends a lot of time trying to fight bureaucracy and regulation, when all we’re trying to do is create jobs and commerce to support our employees and their families.”
Reach David Wren at (843) 937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_