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URS to bring 400 jobs to county

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By Jenny Hartley

INDIAN LAND – A nuclear energy construction company is moving its headquarters into the former offices of HSBC Mortgage Services in Indian Land.

URS Corp. announced Friday that the company’s Washington Division has opened the URS Nuclear Center in Indian Land, which will serve as the headquarters for the Washington Division’s commercial nuclear energy engineering and construction business. The new office complements the division’s existing offices focused on the nuclear market in Princeton, N.J., and Aiken.

The center, at Edgewater Corporate Center off U.S. 521, will provide a complete range of licensing, design, engineering, procurement and construction services for new nuclear generation facilities, as well as for critical stages in the development of nuclear fuel cycle facilities.

The Washington Division plans to employ more than 400 at the Indian Land center over the next several years.

“It’s a nice project, a great company,” said Lancaster County Economic Development Corp. President Keith Tunnell. “They’re very welcome in our community.”

State and local officials lauded HSBC’s move to the county when it was announced in 2005. Employees moved into the building in 2006. Last year, the company announced that due to the downturn in the subprime mortgage lending market, most employees were leaving the Indian Land location.

Tunnell said URS showed immediate interest in the former HSBC offices, and the county and state have been working to bring the company here for the last six months. He thanked the Department of Commerce’s Wayne Fritz for recruiting the project here.

“Nuclear energy is on the fast track again because of gas and oil prices,” Tunnell said.

“With Duke Energy and other energy companies embarking on nuclear projects, I would think that URS will have a presence here for a long time. It’s certainly more stable than the subprime lending market.”

The company was offered a 35 percent rebate on property taxes, with a 6 percent fee-in-lieu of taxes agreement, Tunnell said. It’s the same fee-in-lieu agreement that was offered to HSBC.

HSBC will have to pay the county back $600,000 in incentives in the next three years, since it did not meet its job and investment requirements here, Tunnell said.

“We’re very excited about this project,” said Lancaster County Council Chairman Rudy Carter. “It’s putting people back in that building.”

HSBC officials told Tunnell that they would have about 50 employees at the building through March. URS will occupy about half, or 85,000 square feet of the building at Edgewater Corporate Center on two floors.

“We still have another 85,000 square feet we could lease to another company,” Tunnell said. “We’re still marketing that building.”

John A. Simmons, the Washington Division’s senior vice president of commercial nuclear operations and leader of the division’s commercial nuclear program, is leading the move.

“We are delighted to be opening the URS Nuclear Center at Fort Mill, which will be the new hub for our commercial nuclear business,” said Tom Zarges, president of URS Washington Division, in a press release. “The Washington Division has been providing nuclear expertise since the industry’s infancy, and we are well positioned to help our clients build the next generation of plants needed to meet the growing demand for clean and dependable energy. With new nuclear facilities expected to be concentrated in the southeastern part of the country, South Carolina is an ideal location for our URS Nuclear Center headquarters.”

The Washington Division has engineered or built 49 nuclear power units around the world, including commercial nuclear facilities in the United States, Japan, Taiwan, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

The division is working on numerous nuclear assignments, providing engineering and related services supporting next-generation nuclear power plants, which include both boiling water reactors and pressurized water reactors; building a major Nuclear Regulatory Commission-licensed commercial nuclear facility in New Mexico, the first to be licensed in the United States in 30 years; project management training in China; and replacement of steam generators in existing nuclear plants.

The Washington Division will host a series of career fairs throughout the region to staff the Indian Land nuclear center and a separate Washington Division office in Knoxville, Tenn., dedicated to the completion of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar 2 nuclear plant.

Salaries will range from $15 an hour for administrative staff to $50 an hour for nuclear engineers, Tunnell said.

The division is looking for experienced workers and new graduates in all nuclear engineering disciplines and technical specialties, as well as in project management, project engineering management, project controls, estimating and general administrative support. Information on job openings is available at http://www.wgint.com/nuclearjobs.

The company is already working with the local S.C. Employment Security Commission office, Tunnell said. For details, call 285-6966.

Headquartered in San Francisco, URS Corp. operates through three divisions – the URS Division, the EG&G Division and the Washington Division. URS has about 56,000 employees in a network of offices in more than 30 countries.

“This announcement is another positive sign that our efforts to improve the state’s business climate are paying real dividends when it comes to attracting high-tech, knowledge-based industries that will enable us to further compete in the global economy,” S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford said in a release.

“Given the stature of this company and the high level of research and development associated with these jobs, this is an incredible win for South Carolina that will impact the state’s economy now and in the years ahead.”

Contact Jenny Hartley at 283-1151 or jhartley@thelancasternews.com