Manufacturing, for most part, continuing to operate plants in Aiken County 1

Technician Jayton Arriola works on a diesel engine at MTU America, a manufacturer in Aiken County, last year.

The manufacturing industry in Aiken County is continuing to churn out products at a time when the novel coronavirus pandemic has disrupted economic activity internationally.

“We did a survey yesterday, and most everybody is looking at holding steady in terms of operations,” said Will Williams, president and CEO of the Economic Development Partnership of Aiken, Edgefield, McCormick and Saluda counties, during a telephone interview Monday.

“There has been a minor uptick in absenteeism but nothing dramatic,” he added.

Bridgestone Americas announced a temporary phased shutdown of its manufacturing facilities in North America and Latin America that began March 21. All are expected to resume normal operations on or before April 12, according to a Bridgestone Americas news release.

The company has two plants in Aiken County. One manufactures tires for passenger vehicles and light trucks. The other makes off-road radial tires.

According to officials at Bridgestone Americas’ headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, there is a “sufficient supply” of products to meet customer demand.

The company’s distribution centers, plant warehouses and logistic teams are continuing to fill orders.

The reason for the temporary shutdown is to “align supply to the predicted demand in the market,” the release stated.

There also is a shutdown at the Parkdale Mills plant in Graniteville because of “softening market conditions,” Williams said. “They closed on March 19 and were going to be closed for a minimum of seven days.”

Parkdale Mills is a producer of yarn.

Williams reported that “both Parkdale and Bridgestone have no health issues.”

Meanwhile, “we’re maintaining constant contact” with other manufacturers, Williams said, and “they are all working and want to continue to work. Many of them make products that are essential to keeping the economy going and a lot of them have applications that are very relevant during these times.”

Kimberly-Clark, for example, makes toilet tissue and diapers.

MTU America manufactures off-highway diesel engines that are used in generator sets, construction and mining equipment, yachts, and locomotives.

Others include Avara Pharmaceutical Services and AmbioPharm, a peptide manufacturing company.

“They’re following cleaning protocols and encouraging good health and hygiene practices” such as the washing of hands, said Williams of the management of manufacturing facilities in general.

The Economic Development Partnership is a nonprofit public-private development corporation that focuses on serving the needs of new and existing businesses.

“We have had a couple of inquiries of late (from new businesses), but primarily we are dealing with our existing industries as we always do,” Williams said. “But in this case, we are trying to keep them operational and keep them up to date on changes in this rapidly changing environment. We are putting them in touch with conference calls that have been held with DHEC (South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control), the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance” and other agencies and associations.

In addition, the Economic Development Partnership has been trying to assist another type of business in Aiken County.

“We are encouraging manufacturing companies to allow their employees to get takeout from our local restaurants that are providing services,” Williams said. “We are going to send a list to them of all those restaurants that are willing to do deliveries, if necessary.”

​Dede Biles is the Aiken County government, business and horse industry reporter for the Aiken Standard. Follow her on Twitter @DBethBiles.