EcoDual: When will the jobs come to Beaufort County?

cconley@ilsandpacket.comJune 22, 2013 

Douglas Thomson, executive vice president of EcoDual, is shown after a press conference Thursday morning announcing that the company would built a facility in Beaufort's Commerce Park.

DELAYNA EARLEY — Staff file photo Buy Photo

EcoDual, which last week announced a major expansion in Beaufort that could generate up to 300 jobs, says it expects to start making money next year.

"We are generating sales, and we expect to be profitable in 2014," Doug Thomson, executive vice president of the company that makes natural gas conversion kits for diesel trucks, said Thursday.

"The faster we get to profitability, the better."

And presumably, the faster the two-year-old company will rev up hiring.

EcoDual promised to create 307 new jobs averaging $21 an hour within five years. It also pledged to invest $13.7 million and build a 100,000-square-foot facility in Beaufort's Commerce Park.

For now, it's not clear when those jobs will start getting filled or whether local candidates have the skills needed to qualify. EcoDual has five years to meet its promise, and no benchmarks are required along the way.

Kim Statler of the Lowcountry Economic Alliance, which helped broker incentives from the state and Beaufort County for the company, believes finding local workers won't be a problem.

"Whatever workforce training needs the company identifies, we will work with ReadySC, University of South Carolina Beaufort and Technical College of the Lowcountry to address them and provide the necessary training," Statler said.

Jane Upshaw, USCB chancellor, agrees local workers will be ready.

"We have those transitioning out of the military that would like to stay in Beaufort. They have the skills," she said.

"As for the management and administration, USCB is going to work with EcoDual on curriculum questions and course additions that will prepare our graduates appropriately, as well. USCB's computational science program will be invaluable to them."

Thomson did not respond Friday to questions about the company's hiring plans or specific training or skills needed.

On Thursday, he said most of the new employees would work in Beaufort. Some, but not all, of the hires would be from the Lowcountry.

"Most of it will be local, but it's inevitable some people will come from outside the area, because it's not hard to talk people into moving here," he said. "You can get some amazing talent from other places."

The company, which has apparently been based in Beaufort for at least 18 months, chose to remain in the city in part because of local universities and military bases that produce workers with high-tech skills, he said.

"I come from a high-tech military equipment (background) -- that's where you get not just people who know how to put stuff together but people who know how to make stuff work and solve problems," Thomson said.

The company is seeking an electrical engineer and a mechanical engineer. Both jobs require extensive work experience and engineering degrees, according to the company's website.

Statler said it's unrealistic to expect EcoDual to fill all 300 new jobs at once.

The jobs and investment benchmarks are part of an incentive package awarded by the S.C. Department of Commerce and the county. The state offered job development tax credits, while the county is spending $850,000 on a dynamometer that EcoDual and other companies can use to test large engines.

The device will be the only one of its kind in South Carolina, and county officials believe it will attract other companies to the area.

County administrator Gary Kubic said Friday that no current business prospects would need to use the device. It's not immediately clear if the dynamometer will be stored inside EcoDual's facilities or in a neutral location.

Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.

Related content:

Beaufort company to add 300 jobs in expansion to commerce park, June 20, 2013

Beaufort County defends handling of $850K business incentive, June 12, 2013

Beaufort County offering business incentives worth $850K to entice 'Project Robot', May 7, 2013

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