The massive structure that will ultimately house Effingham County’s newest industry is going up at a rapid pace — and will be open by the end of the year.
Jorge Guerra, EFACEC’s director of U.S. business and operations, said the first phase is right on schedule and the building for the Portuguese conglomerate’s Rincon headquarters should be finished in about three months.
“We should have the building ready by the end of July,” he said. “By September, we should be ready to have some of the tryouts for production. The idea is to open the facility the first week of November.
“We are very excited to be here in Effingham County. I think we have a good team.”
The first phase of the plant will be more than 225,000 square feet and when the second phase is done, the building will be 292,000 square feet.
EFACEC’s employment numbers will go from 40 this year to a 672 in 2017.
“It’s a huge project, even for EFACEC,” said Joaquin Simoes.
Florida Power and Light has put in two orders for transformers from the Rincon plant.
“We’re a few months away from operating the plant, and that’s about 50 percent of the production for the next year already secured,” Guerra said.
The coming Rincon plant isn’t EFACEC’s first Georgia venture — the company bought Advanced Control Systems, a Norcross firm, in 2007.
EFACEC, headquartered in Porto, Portugal, was founded in 1948 and is now in 65 countries, with more than 3,900 employees worldwide. By the end of this year, the company expects its workforce rolls to top 4,300.
Transformers are only one of EFACEC’s 10 business units, and Guerra pointed out that the electric power industry is big business. It generates $342 billion a year, employs more than 400,000 people and represents 3 percent of the national gross domestic product.
“Even with the economic downturn, the energy sector is not suffering that badly,” he said.
Many utilities are starting to replace the transformers they put into their network three decades ago. The average lifespan of a transformer is about 30 years, Guerra said.
“The ones we build last longer,” he said.
EFACEC has delivered 210 transformers in the U.S. since entering the market here 11 years ago. Customers had to come to Portugal for their orders, and by 2007, EFACEC had a $55 million U.S. market.
But their Portugal facility was the only one capable of making the needed and desired transformers.
“We had to reject orders,” Guerra said. “We didn’t have any more capacity at the factory.”
So EFACEC, with a burgeoning U.S. market, started looking for a home in the States.
“This project has been in the works for two years,” Guerra said.
Even with the economy, indicators point to a growth in electrical demand, Guerra said. EFACEC also makes transformers that can handle substantially more load — most U.S. firms build transformers that top out at 300 MVA. EFACEC’s largest shell transformer is 1,000 MVA and weighs 200,000 pounds.