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IDA preps for EFACEC event
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The plans for what is expected to be a groundbreaking event in more ways than one are coming together for the Effingham Industrial Development Authority.

EFACEC, the Portuguese conglomerate that will make electrical transformers at the Effingham Industrial Park, will officially break ground on its facility Sept. 25 at 10 a.m., with company officials, Portuguese dignitaries and local representatives. Currently, geotechnical surveying of the site at the intersection of Highways 21 and 275 is taking place.

EFACEC is expected to bring a party of 20 people to Effingham and the Coastal Empire for the event. That includes a contingent of Portuguese press expected to be on hand for the groundbreaking, which will mark EFACEC’s entry into the U.S. market.

“It’s a very big event for them, and they want to capitalize on the event as much as possible,” IDA CEO John Henry said. “With the publicity we get from this, this will be a showcase for Effingham County. We need to put our best foot forward.”

Henry said he would like for all the leaders across the county to be present.

“It’s a good opportunity for us to show solidarity.”

An advertisement in a trade magazine routinely runs about $3,500, Henry said. But the spotlight on Effingham from next month’s groundbreaking will generate more attention than a series of ads in niche publications.

“With this event, we’ll get more coverage and exposure than one of those could ever provide,” he said.

EFACEC and Portuguese government officials will meet with Gov. Sonny Perdue on Sept. 24 before flying to Savannah for a private dinner that night. The EFACEC contingent also is expected to include some of its top customers. EFACEC makes transformers for Georgia Power, Florida Power and Nevada Power, among others.

When EFACEC does something, such as the purchase of an Atlanta-based software firm, Henry said its decision to locate its initial U.S. manufacturing facility in Effingham County is mentioned in the release or news item.

“We’ve gotten attention from Beijing, London and Russia on our Web site (because of that),” he said. “This is a prime marketing event for Effingham County.”

The IDA shifted nearly $17,000 from its meals and meetings line item to marketing and advertising in advance of the groundbreaking.

“I think they are expecting a lot more than fold-up tables and a funeral (home) tent and printed name badges,” Henry said. “We’re still formulating our game plan. We’ve got approximately one month to get that wrapped up and decide how elaborate or modest we go.”

“It’s being driven more by the company than it is by us,” IDA Chairman Chap Bennett said.

The IDA had asked for $1,500 in support from county commissioners, who rebuffed the request.

The IDA also agreed to an amended memorandum of understanding with EFACEC which essentially pushes back some of the timelines. With the revised MOU, phase I is scheduled to be completed no later than June 30, 2010, and phase II will be completed no later than June 30, 2016.

“The state has signed off on it, and it is ready to go,” IDA attorney Marvin Fentress said.

Henry said none of the terms of the MOU have changed, and the company wants to get its operation up and running in October 2009. The new MOU gives them a cushion in case of cost overruns or delays.

Once EFACEC begins its first phase, it has to install equipment and move in within a year. The first phase is expected to generate 227 jobs, and the company has begun its interviewing process for the initial wave of 40 people needed.

EFACEC is expected to employ more than 600 workers at an average salary of $50,000 once it is fully staffed and operational.

The first 40 trainees will spend a total of nine months in Portugal learning EFACEC’s procedures and processes. They then will train the incoming workforce. The state’s QuickStart program also is working with EFACEC on developing the training manuals.

Henry said the company’s response from the Savannah labor market has been even better than from Atlanta, which has surprised EFACEC officials.

“They’ve been real pleased with the quality of candidates,” he said.