Electronics Manufacturer to Bring 500 Jobs to Fairfield

The Perry Ellis building in Winnsboro, future home of Element Electronics.

WINNSBORO – Element Electronics announced plans Aug. 22 to locate its new flat-screen television production facility in Winnsboro. An overflow crowd spilled out of the County Council chambers Thursday afternoon to hear the news, and they were not disappointed, as the company proclaimed their new venture would bring 500 new jobs to Fairfield County over the next five years. The announcement was made via Internet teleconference from a Wal-Mart economic development conference in Orlando, Fla. by Vlad Kazhdan, vice president of product for Element, and S.C. Governor Nikki Haley. Element, a Minnesota-based company, is a main supplier of electronics to Wal-Mart, as well as Target and QVC.

Element will locate their production facility at 392 Highway 321 Bypass N., former home of Perry Ellis Menswear. The building has been vacant since 2008. The move represents a shift in Element’s manufacturing from China back to the United States. Kazhdan said Element plans to have the Winnsboro plant up and running in October of this year and in full production in nine months. The move represents a $7.5 million investment for the company.

Tiffany Harrison, Director of Economic Development for Fairfield County, said typical jobs at Element would pay about $12.50 an hour, on average. Element plans to bring in workers in shifts of 25 beginning in October, Harrison said, with 250 jobs expected in the initial phase of start-up. An additional 250 jobs will be added over the course of five years.

Some upgrades would be required at the facility, Harrison said, and sources with knowledge of the site told The Voice that the sprinkler system would likely need to be replaced and also noted that there was no air conditioning inside the plant.

“The building is in good shape, structurally,” Harrison said. “I’m not sure what Element’s needs are, as far as environmental control, but they’ve been through the building with their various contractors, so they know what they need.”

According to Fairfield County tax records, the building is currently owned by Winnsboro DC, LLC, a Miami, Fla. subsidiary of Perry Ellis with offices in Columbia. Harrison said Element would not own the building initially. Details of when and if Element – or someone else – would acquire the property outright were part of the County’s incentive package, which Harrison said has not yet been finalized. But the deal to get Element into Fairfield County was driven by the presence of a facility that was ready for production.

“The deal really was building-driven,” Harrison said. “Element was on a fast track. They were actually on track with another state when Gov. Haley invited them to come to South Carolina. The Perry Ellis building was on the list of buildings that would work.”

The County’s commitment to having facilities ready for companies to move into, Harrison said, was key in bringing Element to Fairfield, and is key for further economic development in the future.

“County Council has had the vision to do what is necessary, as far as building product,” Harrison said. “Element needed a building and needed to be up and running in a short time frame. Companies have short time frames now and they need to get their product to market as quickly as possible.

“This is so much more than 500 jobs,” Harrison added. “This opens the door and shows other companies a pathway to being successful. We believe it could have a huge domino effect on economic development in Fairfield County.”

Terry Vickers, President of the Fairfield County Chamber of Commerce, said the entire county could benefit from the new plant.

“I think we could see more restaurants come in, more retail – who knows?” Vickers said. “I think the businesses in the county will benefit from the 500 jobs.”

And, Vickers said, the location of Element in Fairfield makes a much-needed positive statement about future growth.

“It shows our governor and other state agencies that we do want growth in Fairfield County and we’re able to do what it takes to get development here,” she said. “The partnerships and the people who came together with the County and State to make this happen, that’s what business development is all about.”

County Councilman David Brown (District 7) said after last week’s announcement that people were already “coming out of the woodwork” to apply for positions with Element, and Harrison said many of the skillsets required for Element are similar to those utilized by former employees of Perry Ellis.

“With specific training from Element, folks from Fairfield County could be able to move into these jobs,” Harrison said.

The company will begin hiring for the new positions in the fourth quarter of this year. Anyone interested in job opportunities with the company should visit www.sctechjobs.com at that time.