By Ashley Fletcher Frampton
Published Feb. 9, 2011
Showa Denko Carbon announced plans today to expand capacity and add 100 jobs at its Ridgeville plant in Dorchester County.
The company, owned by Japan-based Showa Denko KK, now has about 220 employees at its Ridgeville plant, which produces graphite electrodes that steel product manufacturers use to power their operations.
Robert Whitten, president and CEO of Showa Denko Carbon, said the expansion will increase local production by 68%. It represents an investment “in the hundreds of millions of dollars” but only a slight increase in the size of its local facility.
Most of the investment will come in the form of equipment and jobs, he said. The company already has an efficient plant layout, which is one of the reasons it chose Ridgeville for the expansion.
Showa Denko’s local facility covers about 100 acres at the center of the 850 acres it owns, Whitten said. Expansion will happen primarily “inside the fence” of its building.
Whitten said Showa Denko seriously considered locating a facility in China to increase its electrode production because of low operating costs in that country.
Ultimately, though, it chose Dorchester County because of advantages including the plant layout, the availability of raw materials, competitively priced and reliable energy from Santee Cooper, access to the Port of Charleston and the strong U.S. market for its products, he said.
Construction to alter the facility is expected to begin later this year and should be complete by the first half of 2013, Whitten said. Showa Denko expects to be hiring for the new positions by 2012.
Whitten said the expansion has been in the works for several years, but the recession slowed plans. Now the company sees demand for steel — and therefore, for its products — beginning to regain strength.
He said that demand for its electrodes is growing by about 4% annually.
“Any time a company comes to South Carolina, it’s always hope and excitement,” said Gov. Nikki Haley, who spoke at the expansion announcement today in St. George. “When a company expands in South Carolina, it’s a celebration.”
Expansion of existing companies shows that South Carolina has provided them with the resources they need to do well, Haley said.
Officials said that anyone interested in applying for jobs at Showa Denko should contact the Summerville Workforce Center next year.
Reach Ashley Fletcher Frampton at 843-849-3129.