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Kaydon Corp. Expands

April 03, 2008

Item Staff Writer

Looking to capitalize on a growing wind energy market, Kaydon Corp. announced Thursday a $4.5 million expansion, its third in Sumter in three years.

Ten new jobs will be created as part of the expansion, and Kaydon Plant No. 4 Manager Randy Newman said the company will add an additional 40 percent capacity to the line that produces bearings as large as 12 feet across, destined for windmills.

“Obviously we’re pleased to have this kind of growth at our facility,” he said in a news release. “Business has been strong lately, and we think the new investments will go a long way to helping us meet our customer demands.”

In June 2006, Kaydon representatives unveiled a $6 million expansion at Plant No. 4 — which would eventually amount to nearly $11 million — to upgrade equipment, with the need for 35 more employees. That November, Kaydon announced an $18.5 million expansion of Plant No. 12, also located in Sumter, which would create 50 jobs.

The $4.5 million will go to purchase new equipment like industrial lathes, heat treatment devices and overhead cranes, the release said.

Kaydon’s Plant No. 4 is almost evenly split in its customer base — about 49 percent toward military applications, such as tank turret bearings, and 51 percent geared to commercial uses, Newman said. One of its key customers, he said, is General Electric.

Each set of bearings produced at Plant No. 4 is composed of one yaw and three pitch bearings. The yaw bearing is shipped to GE’s Greenville facility for partial assembly, and the pitch bearings are sent to a Florida plant owned by GE, he said.

The expansion is under way, Newman said, with purchase orders already drawn up and equipment expected to arrive in the fourth quarter of the year. The new hires will probably be brought in during the third quarter for training, so when the equipment arrives, the new workers will be ready to go.

Kaydon’s first Sumter facility opened in 1976, followed by a second in 1990, with a current employment of 290 people. Besides the two here, Kaydon has two plants in Mexico; one in Mocksville, N.C.; and one in Avon, Ohio, which was acquired in October as part of a $55 million buyout of Avon Bearings Corp.

Sumter Development Board Chairman Greg Thompson said in the release he always expected Kaydon to exceed its goals, but not by such a surprising margin.

“Companies tend to be very conservative when they announce because they want to under promise and over-deliver,” he said. “But this represents a 40 percent increase in their original investment, and that’s huge. There are a lot of questions about the future of the world energy market, but there is no question that Kaydon is growing strong in Sumter County.”

Kaydon has been involved with wind energy since the early 1990s, and Sumter Mayor Joe McElveen said in the release that “this expansion places Sumter in a position to be a leader in the green economy,” noting that “wind energy is slated to increase rapidly in the coming years.”

Contact Staff Writer Joe Perry at (803) 774-1272.

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“Everyone at Mount Franklin Foods is excited about our operations in Sumter, South Carolina. We are confident that we will have an abundance of excellent candidates as we build our team."
Gary Ricco
President and CEO, Mount Franklin Foods