AIKEN - Aiken deal makers announced Monday what had been in the works for at least a year: a UPS center on the city's southside that will eventually bring 542 local jobs.
Hiring should begin in April, and the package processing facility, a little larger than a football field, will open two months later.
UPS Customhouse Brokerage Inc. signed a 10-year lease at the Centennial Corporate Center, breathing new life into the business park that has sat partially vacant since the 1990s when Westinghouse Savannah River Co. moved its administrative and engineering offices to SRS in the midst of layoffs.
Workers at the high-tech facility won't touch a single United Parcel Service package. They will use computers to process packages for the U.S. Customs Service and other government agencies as they move across American borders.
Spokesman Mark Dickens said Monday that the company considered 60 other cities before settling on Aiken. When UPS officials learned that a building that fit their needs already was available and workers could be found easily, there was no reason to keep looking, Mr. Dickens said.
It also helped that South Carolina and UPS already have an established relationship. Several years ago, the company opened a cargo hub at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport.
The Aiken facility will receive a tax reduction for every job it creates for five years. Some state incentives are expected also.
"We've gotten feedback from big companies such as Bridgestone/Firestone and much smaller companies that people in this area put in a good day's work for an honest day's pay," said Fred Humes, director of the Economic Development Partnership, which recruits businesses for Aiken and Edgefield counties.
"People here know the value of a job, and they don't mind working hard," he said. "You just don't find that kind of attitude in some places."
Mr. Humes said workers can expect to make between $9.50 and $11 an hour. They will be trained in international customs laws and regulations.
UPS Customhouse Brokerage, with headquarters in Louisville, Ky., is the seventh business to move into the park off Pine Log Road since Westinghouse moved out. Most of the office space will be filled when the facility opens.
Monday's announcement of 542 jobs during the next five years was the first major economic news for the city in 2001.
Reach Chasiti Kirkland at (803) 279-6895.
UPS Customhouse Brokerage Inc.has more than 3,000 employees in 24 countries. It handles more than 45,000 shipments daily. You can find the company on the web at www.ups.com. For job information, call (502) 485-2141.