Manufacturing Incubator to help expand industry in the Pee Dee

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) $4.3 million is going towards building a facility where small manufacturing businesses can grow. People who use that new facility will be able to use all the technology and services Florence-Darlington Tech offers.

What started as an idea is finally becoming reality as the new manufacturing incubator is taking shape.

The facility is halfway done and will house about 25 manufacturing businesses.

Project managers say once it's finished, they don't think they'll have any problem finding business owners to move in.

People working on this new facility say it will grow starter businesses, ultimately creating more jobs in the Pee Dee.

"They've got to start somewhere and we're kind of the interim step between where they came out of their garage and how they're getting ready to go into the marketplace and that's what an incubator does," said Florence-Darlington Tech President, Dr. Charles Gould.

Associates with Florence-Darlington Technical College are behind the program.

With help from state, federal and foundation funding, the college was able to finance the $4.3 million facility right on its campus.

The 27,000 square foot facility will be divided into different sized office and manufacturing spaces to hold 25 different companies.

The incubator will only house manufacturing businesses, and that's what college officials say pays good money.

"Service industries are wonderful, retail industries are wonderful, we need them, but the high paying jobs are in manufacturing and manufacturing has got a tremendous amount of capital in their bank accounts," said Gould.

The director of the project saID business owners will have the benefit of having services and support right in their backyard.

"All of the technology and all of the services that we have available in that facility are readily available to anyone that will be a tenant or client in the incubator facility as well," said Southern Institute for Manufacturing and Technology Director, Jack Roach.

Future tenants will pay for the work space at market value and are expected to leave the incubator and transition into the market in about two years or less.

"We're talking to clients right now that are potentially very interested and their timeline does match when our completion date is so we hope to have some tenants before we even open," said Gould.

The estimated completion date of the manufacturing incubator is July 2012.

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