JW Aluminum settles in to new Daniel Island headquarters during 'transformational year'
Tucked away on the fourth floor of The Landing office building on Fairchild Street on Daniel Island, executives with JW Aluminum (JWA) are quietly forging a promising new future for their company.
The corporate team relocated to the new 22,000 square foot space this summer from Goose Creek, where the company is currently undergoing a massive $300 million expansion that will enlarge its manufacturing facility to nearly the size of four football fields.
“It represents the first major investment in continuous cast, particularly for building and construction, for about 25 years in our country,” noted Stan Brant, JW Aluminum’s chief operating officer.
The expansion is called Project Boilermaker – and its impact on the local, regional and state economy is drawing noteworthy attention. Expected to generate some 50 new high-paying jobs and a $465 economic impact in the Charleston area alone, the expansion investment was second only to Google in terms of new South Carolina capital investments announced in 2018.
“What we’ll have when we’re finished is the highest quality, most technologically advanced continuous cast facility in the world,” said Brant.
“JW Aluminum is really kind of reinvesting in manufacturing, and one of the big focuses of the company is to really reinvigorate American manufacturing,” added Nicole Snyder, JWA’s communications director.
Founded in 1979 with just 10 employees, JWA now has close to 800 staff members and four mill locations across the U.S. They are currently the leading producer of flat rolled aluminum products used in a variety of commercial and consumer applications. About 70 percent of the products made at their Goose Creek plant come from aluminum scrap (once their expansion is complete, that will increase to 100 percent). They take that material and melt it down, creating long strips that are wound into coils, and then those coils go into a variety of items used every day by consumers.
“Our biggest business is for building and construction,” explained Brant. “So if you look at your home and think about roofing, siding, soffits, fascia, the eaves of your house, you’ll see some of our products.”
They also create what’s called fin stock (used in HVAC equipment), automotive heat shields, and a number of packaging materials, such as the thin foil on top of food containers and over-the-counter medications.
According to Brant, the demand for the items they produce is surging.
“It’s an unmet need,” he continued. “There isn’t enough capacity, there aren’t enough manufacturers in the United States to meet the demands that we have in these different businesses…That’s why it’s so important for us when we think about preserving jobs in America, as well as how we bring jobs back. So that’s our expansion.”
In the continuous cast market for example, noted Brant, there is currently about a billion pound shortfall of domestic supply.
“That’s the opportunity,” he added. “…And it’s not just the new jobs we’re bringing, but it’s also the way we’re upgrading the existing jobs at our facility, spending over 50,000 hours in training existing teammates to bring their skill sets up and have an opportunity to grow and develop.”
And much of that training, recruiting and developing will take place in their new Daniel Island headquarters. Selecting the island as the site of their corporate hub was an easy decision, noted Brant (about 50 employees are currently working out of the new location). They wanted to stay within a 30-minute drive of their Goose Creek facility and find a space that would allow them to accommodate their needs, while meeting their goal of being the leading aluminum rolled products company in the world.
“We looked at 11 different properties and it really came down to that there really wasn’t another product that fit all of the requirements that we had, as well as the environment that we have here on Daniel Island,” explained Brant.
A close professional community and available amenities - such as restaurants, shopping and medical offices - were among the perks.
“That’s important to our team,” added Brant, who said the company signed a 10-year lease for their new Daniel Island headquarters.
“It’s a transformational year for JW Aluminum and the addition of the space in Daniel Island is indicative of our rapid growth,” stated Lee McCarter, the company’s chief executive officer, in a press release last January. “We look forward to expanding our footprint in the Charleston area to continue to serve as a preferred supplier, employer and partner now and well into the future.”
The expansion in Goose Creek is expected to be complete in 2020. Brant also thanked the economic development teams from Goose Creek, Berkeley County, and the state for their support of the company.
“Everybody wants to talk about direct monetary incentives,” he said. “And that’s a piece, but more importantly, it’s the ease of doing business…We truly have something unique in this area. If we need help with zoning, if we need other resources, if we need other professionals to help us, shepherding us through this process…they understand all the challenges that we face. It’s been very much a cooperative, collaborative type of environment to do what we need to do to make this work.”