Ah, another year, another list of the “Remember This?” moments.
And 2011 had some doozies.
The No. 1, hands down, biggest economic development story was Bridgestone’s tire facilities in Aiken County. At $1.2 billion, it was the biggest for the state and biggest for that company.
When the expansion at the existing plant is done and the new plant is online, there will be 850 more people making tires in Aiken County.
PARTRIDGE INN: Other notable business stories for the year included the seeming demise of the Partridge Inn, with the owners headed to a foreclosure sale, only to be bought by themselves.
We got the news in July that hotel owners Walton Way Hotel LLC defaulted on a $16 million loan. In the beginning of September, at the foreclosure auction, Walton Way Limited Partnership bought the hotel for $14 million. Their attorney said both the old and the new owners were shell companies for the same group.
SRS STIMULUS: The $1.6 billion in shovel ready projects – and the jobs that came with them – that drew so much attention at the height of the Great Recession came to an end this fall. At peak employment, there were more than 3,100 people working on the mothballing of old nuclear bomb making facilities, moving waste, demolishing old buildings and treating soil.
CLUB CAR: There was a change in command at Club Car in Evans. Gary Michel left in Augusta after being promoted to lead parent company’s Ingersoll Rand Residential Solutions. In Michel’s four years, he expanded Club Car’s presence in nongolf segments, including utility and low-speed vehicles.
He was succeeded by another long timer in Ingersoll Rand, Marc Dufour. He was president of the Americas Region of the IR’s Industrial Technologies Sector for five of his 30 years with the company.
THERMO KING: Speaking of Ingersoll Rand, they also hit the top business stories of 2011 for announcing the closure of Thermo King in Louisville.
Thermo King, which makes refrigerated rail cars and truck trailers, has been in Louisville since the 1960s. In July, it said it was going to move production to Nebraska and unemploy 235 people.
BARNWELL BOOM: One of the smallest counties in South Carolina with one of the highest unemployment rates in the state went on an economic development roll in the last quarter of 2011.
A 20-person, $5 million plastics-to-oil recycling plant was announced two weeks ago. That caps a run of 580 new jobs in announcements from companies that are relocating operations from Miami that make display cases, from Egypt that makes safety clothing, or are expanding medical document retrieval services.
Just two years ago, Barnwell County lost more than 700 jobs as three industries closed their doors.
BORDERS: Like the demise of Circuit City a few years ago, the nationwide closure of Borders Books in September took away a well known tenant in Augusta Exchange. It didn’t stay empty long, however, as a beauty supply store called Ulta took over that spot.
BORAL BRICKS: In response to the slow national home building market, Boral Bricks cooled two of its brick making kilns in Augusta. And 70 people got the pleasure of navigating the job market.
COSTCO: The biggest retail development in Richmond County in 2011 also put an end to the saga of the the shopping plaza that it occupies. The Villages at Riverwatch underwent several concept changes, proposed anchor tenant changes, and sat empty for more than five years.
EAGLE: A late entry to the list is the recent announcement by American Eagle that it is going to pull out of Augusta only 18 months after re-starting flights to our airport.