The sounds of construction will emit from the former Badcock building in a few days as a metal fabrication company breathes new life into the dormant facility and prepares it for new use.
Standard Iron will get the building it has sought for nearly two years. A Minneapolis-based company, Standard Iron sought to move into the former W.S. Badcock facility in late 2016 or early 2017 but the company and the Badcock Corporation could not come to an agreement on the purchase of 690 Augusta Road and 683 Boulevard Dr. The company leased a temporary 30,000 square-foot building at 405 Railroad St. from the City of Thomson and put 25 welders to work until it could purchase the Badcock building or a similar facility..
Standard Iron, the McDuffie Development Authority and Forward McDuffie worked with Badcock to make the sale go through and bring a new industry to the McDuffie community and create job opportunities for the citizens.
The sale went through Oct. 3 and Standard Iron closed on the facility and land Oct. 4
The McDuffie County Commission, on Oct. 3, approved a quit claim deed from Badcock giving Standard Iron the northerly right of way of U.S. 278 and the northeasterly right of way of Boulevard Dr. to do its work in McDuffie County.
According to Lee Briggs, factory manager, Standard Iron provides component metal fabrication for contract and architectural companies. It has been a family-owned business since its inception in 1930.
When Standard Iron arrived in Thomson, the location became the fifth facility for the company. There are two in Minnesota, one in Nebraska, one in Monterey, Mexico.
“The Thomson facility is basically to serve all of the southeast,” the manager said.
Briggs said the company’s customer base brought it to Thomson. It provides component manufacturing for the HVAC industry, the agriculture industry and construction.
“This was a prime location for our growth ambitions to bring our architectural metals down here to service the Atlanta, Charlotte and Columbia areas,” he said. “This really centralized us not only to our customer base for contract manufacturing, but also our architectural component as we start to bring that down here,” he said.
Briggs said the Standard Iron wanted the 149,000 square-foot Badcock building that sits on 21 acres but could not come to a mutual agreement on the purchase. “A lot of our business in the southeast was dependant upon us having a location here and we had to have somewhere,” he said. That someplace was a 30,000 square-foot building from the City of Thomson. “We have very much outgrown it,” Briggs said.
Demolishing and construction on the Badcock Building began Oct. 4. Briggs said the company is taking a phased approach to construction, electrical upgrade, office remodels and making an open space operation.
"We are extremely pleased that Standard Iron and Wire Works has purchased a facility and is expanding its work force in Thomson – McDuffie,” said Riley Stamey, chairperson of the Thomson-McDuffie Development Authority. “This is evidence that our community is a great place to do business and we wish for the company much success in the future."
Briggs is hopeful that by mid-December, construction will be far along to move sets of equipment from the Railroad Street location into the building. “We will move sets and get them up and running so that we do not disrupt our supply to our customers,” he said. It is anticipated that production will begin at the new Standard Iron location in early January.
Standard Iron provides all areas of metal fabrication, from the most sophisticated laser operations to manual and robotic welding. It has 21 employees and hopes to have more than 100 employees after moving into the new building. “We hope to top off at 200 employees in three years,” Briggs said.
“These will be very, very good paying jobs for the citizens,” Briggs added. The employees currently work 40-hour weeks. He said when the facilities move into its new plant, a night shift will be added and it will grow into a 24-hour a day operation.
Briggs said he desires to bring a focused, lean manufacturing approach to the area to teach and train people in manufacturing in a proper way.
Community engagement is part of Standard Iron’s ethos, the factory manager said. “All of different facilities, including this one, are much engaged in our local communities, engaged in workforce development and philanthropic endeavors,” Briggs said. “What we bring to the table is the opportunity, especially in some of the smaller areas, is bring economic development and growth by bringing good paying, skilled jobs to the area,” he said.
Briggs, who is from the Grovetown area, said he is much involved in workforce education. The company reached out to Thomson High School about an apprentice program and a student began working afterschool on Oct. 8. The unnamed student will be learning about the press brake and then cross training across the facility.
“It has been such a pleasure to work with Lee Briggs and the Standard Iron team,” said Jade Morey, president of Forward McDuffie. “Lee has been an integral part of the workforce plan of action between the McDuffie County School System and our local manufacturing industries. Standard Iron is a shining example of growth opportunities and partnerships in Thomson-McDuffie County. Not only does Standard Iron’s expansion signal positive growth for our national economy but also it shows the desire and need to be strategically located in the McDuffie County region. This is exciting news and we look forward to supporting their current and future expansions.”