The long-awaited Project Arx has landed finally — in South Carolina.
Palmetto State officials announced earlier this month that American Titanium Works will build a $422 million facility in Laurens County, employing 320 workers. Effingham County had been one of the finalists to land the mill, which had been code named Project Arx.
“From a local perspective, we did everything that I think was appropriate,” Effingham Industrial Development Authority CEO John Henry said.
But other factors — from timing to available land — hurt Effingham’s chances.
“We didn’t have a site that was ready to go,” Henry said.
Effingham even partnered with the Savannah Economic Development Authority to make its pitch to site selection consultants. Henry said South Carolina was proactive in its approach and also relied upon an advanced materials research facility to woo the project.
ATW will establish a development center at Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research, hiring 40 engineers to work on titanium prototypes. Titanium is twice as strong as steel and is corrosion resistant. The company is expected to target a wide variety of uses, including automotive, aerospace, defense and energy.
The project was extended six weeks in order to include Effingham as a potential host for the new plant. But the state couldn’t match South Carolina’s incentives package.
The IDA is exploring a partnership of local communities, Georgia Tech, the Savannah College of Art and Design and the Herty Advanced Materials Research Center in Savannah. Effingham IDA Chairman Chap Bennett attended a meeting last month with representatives from the Herty Foundation and the development authorities of Bryan and Liberty counties.
“They are research specialists,” Bennett said of the Herty Advanced Materials Research Center, which makes it possible to “take ingenuity home with you.”
Under exploration is a possible coalition between Bryan, Chatham, Liberty and Effingham with those institutions.
“We all liked it,” Bennett said. “We had some reservations and talked through them. Right now, it’s a thought. We’re trying to take it to another level. At first, we were cautious. The more we talked, the more excited we got. This is an interesting philosophy to build our coalition around the ports and what they could do for us.”
Bennett left an initial meeting thinking the partnership was “pie in the sky.” But after the October meeting, he left excited about its potential.
Henry said Herty can create the impetus to bring in technology. That’s where the communities come in.
“They don’t have anywhere to put up new companies,” he said. “They don’t have incubators.”
The IDA is still exploring the opportunity, and SCAD is putting a proposal together for a coalition.
“That’s a project in the works and probably will be in the next six to eight months,” he said. “I think there are a lot of marketing opportunities that have been passed up in the past.”