By Stan Welch
United States Senator Jim DeMint was in the Piedmont area Monday afternoon, touring the manufacturing facility at Watson Engineering.
Five years ago, Watson Engineering, which is a main supplier for Caterpillar heavy equipment, decided to locate a plant here to be closer to five Caterpillar plants in the Southeast.
Originally attracted by incentives calling for the creation of sixty jobs, Watson Engineering now employs one hundred and twenty two people in the area, as well as three hundred twenty more in their home town of Taylor Michigan.
Owner Chuck Watson was on hand to give the senator and media a tour of the facility, which produces a variety of metal braces, clamps, plates, and other non-mechanical parts for Caterpillar as well as for the military, the automotive industry, agriculture, diesel engines, and electrical manufacturers.
Joe Campbell, plant supervisor, echoed Watson’s sentiments that Upstate SC and Anderson County are business friendly. “We find it refreshing that we can call up the local economic development folks, like Burriss Nelson, and we can talk with them about things and know that they are wanting to help us find solutions.”
The company, which has expanded the facility from 73,000 square feet to eighty six thousand, is about to open a warehousing and distribution site less than a mile away. Tom Scott, plant manager, explained that the new building will free up more floor space at the existing site to expand manufacturing operations even more.
Watson and Campbell explained to Sen. DeMint that health care costs are a tremendous challenge. “Things have reached the point where we’re glad to see an annual hike of between 8-12%. One year, it was nineteen. It’s just a runaway train, and it’s killing small businesses,” said Watson.
Campbell explained that the company’s employees in Michigan had turned down a chance to go union, because Watson has always treated them so well. “We feel like we are Watson Engineering, not a union. We are a family, and we will overcome whatever is thrown at us.”
Senator DeMint agreed, and pledged to keep South Carolina business friendly. “Jobs are the engine for everything, and South Carolina is intent on creating the kind of environment that makes businesses and industry want to locate here.”