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Bienvenue, DRT
French-based company ready to start work on Effingham plant
shovel ready 1
With help from DRT America president Corey Schneider, center, Effingham Industrial Development Authority CEO John Henry, right, presents a ceremonial shovel to DRT president Laurent Labatut as the company broke ground on its first U.S. facility Tuesday. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

Surrounded by pine trees, DRT America’s first U.S. facility may have a fitting environment.

The French-based company broke ground on its planned turpentine operation on the Effingham Industrial Development Authority’s Governor Treutlen tract in the Effingham Industrial Park.

“Today, we are celebrating the start of construction for our new plant,” said Corey Schneider, president of DRT America.

The turpentine plant, once finished, will represent a nearly $40 million investment in the county and 40 jobs and an ongoing business of $30-$40 million. Schneider said the company will be active in the community and an active buyer from local businesses.

“They will build the most modern turpentine distillation plant in the world in our county,” said Effingham County commission Chairman Wendall Kessler. “It is another opportunity for the world to see Effingham County. Effingham County is getting put on the map again because of this company. We should be proud, and we welcome them here to put this investment in our county.”

Construction is expected to take about a year and DRT is expecting to open the plant next year.

The plant will take up about 12 acres on the 83-acre Governor Treutlen site, and 66 acres of those are cleared.

“They’ve had a lot of patience, not only in getting this site ready, but a lot of diligence in pursuing this project,” Effingham IDA CEO John Henry said of DRT. “This has turned into a phenomenal site. We’re really proud of it.”

Henry also harkened the site’s namesake, the former indentured servant Rev. Johann Martin Boltzius brought to the New Ebenezer settlement to go to school and who eventually became a patriot and Georgia’s first governor.

“Now we seek corporate citizens that have those same extraordinary talents,” Henry said. “We seek corporate citizens that take pride in their new community and act accordingly. That’s what makes events like this great, knowing that you have a company that is creating careers in the community and investing in the community but one that cares about the community and about how they are perceived in the community.”

Schneider said the company originally looked at South Carolina before turning its attention to Georgia and then to Effingham County.

“Less than two years ago, it looked like we would be having this ceremony in South Carolina,” he said. “DRT was convinced to build in Effingham County instead.”

Local officials pointed out the availability of a skilled workforce, nearby outstanding training facilities and the help of Georgia QuickStart, Schneider added.

“They showed us this beautiful site that we could build on, close to the best port in the Southeast,” he said, “with good access, good roads and a water treatment facility next door. There is plenty of room for growth. And most of important of all perhaps, they demonstrated the kind of help, cooperation, support and courtesy that we could expect from state and local officials.”

Schneider acknowledged he wasn’t sure the company would even build a plant, but state Department of Economic Development project manager Alyce Thornhill called him periodically, checking on the company’s progress.

“And for a long time, the project wasn’t going,” he said, “but that didn’t stop her. We ended up with the best site after all.”

Laurent Labatut, the president of DRT, thanked Effingham County representatives for making the company feel welcome in Georgia. The company was founded in 1942 by foresters and remains in family ownership today.

The company has more than 1,200 employees with an annual revenue of $400 million. There are four plants in France, with other facilities in China and India.

“The owners are very involved in day-to-day operations,” Labatut said. “It has grown from one factory in France to worldwide presence.”

The company takes pine products and turns them into ingredients for a wide array of products, including perfumes and tires.

“Our raw materials are derived naturally,” Labatut said. “Our manufacturing processes are all environmentally friendly.”

Kessler said DRT America’s decision to open its first U.S. plant in Effingham “sends a signal to other industries that Effingham County is not only a great place to live but also a great place to do business.”

“We look forward to having this company come to Effingham County not only as an industry, but as a stakeholder in the future of this community,” Kessler said.