Husqvarna has now officially opened the $31 million expansion of its Orangeburg, S.C., plant. The addition automates the transfer of finished products from the plant’s assembly lines to the new distribution center.
A story in The Times & Democrat of Orangeburg provides more details:
Blundean Mack sat on the front row for Friday's ribbon-cutting ceremony as Husqvarna Outdoor Products celebrated its new, 513,000-square-foot distribution and warehouse facility.
"Today, I thought I would never see," she said. "It blew my mind. I have never experienced anything like this."
Mack was one of the first employees trained at the Old Elloree Road facility in 1972, when it was called Roper Lawn Mower Co.
"I am overwhelmed," Mack said. "We came here in 1972 and we started off with just one line."
Mack said at the time there were maybe 50 employees.
Now the Orangeburg plant has six production lines. The plant manufactures lawnmowers, chainsaws and other lawn and garden equipment.
Husqvarna is the county's largest manufacturer. It employs about 2,300 during its peak manufacturing season.
The expansion resulted in 20-30 additional jobs.
The Orangeburg operations now exceed 1.9 million square feet, making it the company's largest campus globally.
"I have seen a lot, a lot of things," Mack said. "Good things. I started here, believe it or not, we started only at $2.15 per hour. At that time, it was really the highest-paying job in Orangeburg."
She said in her previous job she was getting paid $1.50 an hour.
"As you can see, I was really rich when I came in here," Mack said.
Gladys Prince is the only remaining employee from the initial start-up in 1972. She received three weeks of training at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College in preparation for the job.
"I started on the assembly line and after I left the assembly line, I went to an inspector, from inspector to quality control,” Prince said.
Today, she is a quality auditor.
"Awesome," is how Prince described the day. "I feel so great. I have come to work every day. I love it. Anything they ask me to do, I am ready to do."
Prince said she has trained a number of people over the years.
"This is the best," she said. "It is going to impact Orangeburg County and Orangeburg County has been the best."
Thomas Houser has been employed with Husqvarna for 45 years. He started out on the assembly line and then moved into the pressroom and is now is a dye setter.
"I never thought I would live to see this day," he said. "Being here in this building today and all these people here today, it is really a great achievement."
Houser said the company brought him a long way.
"I am in a nice neighborhood now. I have a nice home, me and my wife. I have three boys. We are living nice and comfortable. Husqvarna did all that for me,” he said.
Jeff Hohler, president of Husqvarna’s consumer brands division, called the employees “representative of the total Orangeburg employment base.”
"They are still a very vital and active part of what we do here in Orangeburg," Hohler said. "This facility is a testament to our confidence in you."
The employees received a standing ovation from the couple hundred people gathered for the event.
The ribbon to the expansion was cut using a hedge trimmer.
The expansion brought words of praise from company and county officials.
Husqvarna President and Chief Executive Officer Kai Warn said, "Please see this investment as a signal of our commitment and the confidence we have ... in the future."
Husqvarna General Manager Ramiro Leal called the expansion, “one more step in our aspirations to become a world-class facility."
Orangeburg County Development Commission Executive Director Gregg Robinson said logistics is the name of the game and Husqvarna is playing the game well.
“It is all about jobs and it is all about capital investment for our community,” he said.
With Volvo coming to Berkeley County, Sweden will be the top country represented in the region.
"We love diversity," Robinson said. "We love Sweden, we love Europe, we love the world. Diversity makes us stronger."