VIDEO: Hardeeville-based DUER High Performance Composites expands, moves to Beaufort

emoody@beaufortgazette.comAugust 28, 2013 

Start-up manufacturer DUER High Performance Composites is expanding and moving from Hardeeville to Beaufort, officials announced Wednesday afternoon at the business' new location on Eleanore Fine Road.

The business is expected to invest more than $1 million in the community and bring three dozen additional jobs, city of Beaufort Redevelopment Commission chairman Jon Verity said.

County Councilman Paul Sommerville called DUER "engineering that is outside the box," using cutting-edge technology and materials.

The husband-and-wife team of Chris and Tauri Duer, who live in Bluffton, started the company in a 15,000-square-foot facility in the Hardeeville Industrial Park this past August. It creates parts such as resin-infused carbon fiber, which is used for boats.

"Basically, if someone wants something that's lightweight, strong and durable, we can build it," Tauri Duer said.

Both Duers are engineers who complete design and development work for their customers. Chris Duer has previous business connections with companies such as Gurit that allow DUER to work with and test new materials before other manufacturers, the Duers said.

Since opening, the business -- and the physical size of its projects -- has grown. For instance, the Duers have worked on boats as long as 45 feet.

With immediate needs for a larger facility, the Duers said they searched both locally, in Georgia and in the Midwest for a place to relocate.

"A lot of buildings we looked at and said, 'how can we make this work?'" Chris Duer said.

Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling heard about their search and suggested the former Environments Inc. warehouse at 20 Eleanore Fine Road, which was previously used by a boat manufacturer, Chris Duer said.

"Quite frankly, no matter how much money was given in incentives, no matter how beautiful the Beaufort River is, what was needed in this case were two people, who came up with a very fair rent and who accommodated you," Keyserling said to the Duers.

Chris Duer praised the building's owners, Beecher and Irene Hoogenboom, who attended the press conference, for their assistance with a swift transition and said they have been like parents.

With 36-foot-tall ceilings, 25-foot-wide doors and up to 48,000 square feet of space, it fit the bill, he said.

The company is leasing half the space and has an agreement to lease the rest as the company grows and needs additional room, Tauri Duer said.

The Duers are receiving a $50,000 grant from the S.C. Department of Commerce's Coordinating Council for Economic Development, according to a state release.

Lowcountry Economic Alliance executive director Kim Statler said the money comes from a "closing fund" that has more flexible rules to give money in order to help seal a deal.

The money will be used to build a large controlled-environment room needed for some projects, Tauri Duer said.

The county is providing a grant of up to $6,900 to assist with the move, Statler said. The grant is below the dollar threshold for mandatory council approval and was approved by county administrator Gary Kubic, she said.

"It wasn't a big deal, but it made all the difference to them," Statler said.

The company employs 12 people at the moment, including the Duers, and has an immediate need for four new employees. The five-year plan is to expand that the staff to 47, Chris Duer said.

Wages will be above the state average of about $16 per hour, according to Statler, who assisted with the relocation and grants. Tauri Duer said they intend to hire local residents, and most will not need little experience in the field because they will be trained.

Although Duer said he has known Statler since before the company opened in Hardeeville, he said they did not work with the LEA originally.

Hardeeville city manager Bob Nanni said he doesn't remember the exact circumstances of what all the city did to assist with the original location, but said officials had been attempting to help the Duers find a larger location.

Officials had talked about creating a spec building for the Duers, but "to be quite honest with you, I thought we had more time," said Nanni, who learned of the move Wednesday night.

Hardeeville senior planner Chris Damgen, who had worked with the Duers, called their business "exemplary" and said it was unfortunate there wasn't a space large enough to meet their needs. Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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