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Shimano American Corporation to expand its Charleston operations

Oct. 1, 2005
Charleston Post and Courier
By John P. McDermott
A Japanese maker of fishing gear and bicycle components is expanding its Charleston operations, two years after picking the region for its East Coast import hub.

Shimano American Corp., the U.S. subsidiary of Osaka-based Shimano Inc., is clearing a nearly 18-acre site in Palmetto Commerce Park in Ladson for a 100,000-square-foot distribution center.

The cost of the project is estimated at $5 million, said Allen Johnston, director of operations for Shimano American of Irvine, Calif.

Shimano hopes to begin moving its existing local warehouse operations into the new facility next May, he said Tuesday. The company expects to keep its payroll at about 15 employees, not including temporary workers it uses during peak periods.

Shimano decided it needed a site to serve the East Coast market in 2002. It picked the Charleston region over 13 other port cities the following year, leasing a 25,000-square-foot warehouse in Ladson's Benchmark Industrial Park.

"We moved into the area as a test site," Johnston said.

Most of the fishing and bicycling products the company brings through the Port of Charleston are made at Shimano plants in Southeast Asia, Johnston said.

The company's volume of business in Ladson has increased steadily, driven "by a little bit of everything, like everybody who fishes on the East Coast," he said.

"It's going very well," Johnston said.

Shimano American will own its new distribution center, which was designed to accommodate an 80,000-square-foot expansion, he added. The company has been negotiating with Charleston County economic development officials for a fairly standard arrangement that would allow it to pay a fixed fee instead of property taxes, which tend to fluctuate.

Shimano's expansion reflects increased activity in Palmetto Commerce Park, a 1,100-acre industrial park off Ladson Road.

Holset Turbo Chargers recently broke ground on $13 million manufacturing plant in an expansion of its local operations. Also, Stone Mountain, Ga.-based Pattillo Construction Co. has leased a 190,000-square-foot warehouse it built several years ago, reportedly to a distributor of gloves.

The biggest unknown for the park is the future of the sprawling American LaFrance building. DaimlerChrysler AG is selling the fire-engine maker and plans to phase out production at that plant, most likely in mid-2007. The auto giant plans has said it will reopen the site but has not released any details.

Meanwhile, it is widely expected that the main road in Palmetto Commerce will be extended and completed with proceeds from the county's half-cent sales tax.
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