Firm breaks ground for $13.5M plant

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By Johnathan Ryan

State, county and city of Lancaster officials stood united in their welcoming of Metso Power Corp. to the county at a groundbreaking ceremony Friday in the Lancaster Business Park.

Players involved in the $13.5 million investment gathered under a big white tent on the 21.5-acre site for the ceremony. Metso is expected to bring at least 50 new jobs that will pay between $15 and $30 an hour. Keith Corp. of Charlotte is developing the site.

Metso, based in Finland, will lease a 100,000-square-foot facility from the developer. Most of Metso's jobs will involve welding work in the manufacturing of components and parts, such as boilers found in paper and pulp and utilities plants.

The company has numerous facilities throughout the Southeast and an administrative office in Charlotte.

David King, president of Metso Power-North America, talked about wat attracted Metso to Lancaster.

"It's centrally located to our customer base in the Southeast and offices in Charlotte," he said.

King also said state, county and city officials worked together to create the "most competitive incentive package" in the region.

"They absolutely did," he said.

The path to Friday's groundbreaking wasn't without obstacles.

Last summer, the company requested an exemption to an ordinance that would have required Metso's site at the business park to be annexed into the city to receive city water and sewer services.

City Council denied the request last summer, and it appeared Metso lost interest in locating in the park because it was opposed to paying $105,000 in taxes to the city annually.

But county and city officials worked toward a compromise.

The county agreed to give the city 50-tax mills of payment each year from fee-in-lieu of property tax agreements if the city agreed to provide water and sewer services to companies that locate in the business park. In return, businesses that locate in the park won't be required to be annexed into the city.

King said local officials remained professional throughout the process and kept the company interested.

"We remained really committed to locating in Lancaster County," King said. "We knew it was the right place to be."

City Councilman Bill Sumner reflected on the importance of Metso's move Friday, saying new jobs are too important right now to Lancaster County,

"Every job, every family is important," he said.

"Just like Mr. Rogers said, it's a wonderful day in the neighborhood," said County Council Chairman Rudy Carter, reflecting on the unified spirit Friday.

Jack Ellenberg, deputy secretary of the S.C. Department of Commerce, said word is getting out about in the national media about South Carolina's pro-business government.

"South Carolina's pro-business and strong workforces contributed to what we have here today," he said.

He thanked Metso for realizing the state's qualities.

Gene Christiansen, general manager for Metso Power Service, said Metso will start interviewing for jobs at the plant soon and will start training hired workers in April. He said the plant should be complete and in operation by July.

Those interested in applying for Metso jobs may contact Metso recruiter Angela Stevenson at (704) 541-1453 or Angela.Stevenson@metso.com. You may also contact the local office of the S.C. Employment Security Commission at 285-6966 if you're interested in a job at Metso.

Graeme Keith, chairman of Keith Corp., said his company also plans to build a 38-acre business park on land it acquired in the Indian Land area. The county has not yet received any plans for the site but is eagerly looking forward to them, Carter said.

Contact Johnathan Ryan at 416-8416 or jryan@thelancasternews.com