Tuesday was all about new beginnings for Graniteville.
Recleim broke ground at Hickman Mill, an old plant that will be converted into a 350,000-square-foot e-waste recycling center, and the company will provide approximately 200 jobs to residents in the area.
The Recleim project is a $40.6 million investment and is breathing life into a vacant historic building sitting in a centralized location in Graniteville.
“It's a new day, and we're heading forward,” said Aiken County Councilman and Graniteville resident Phil Napier, who was one of many local and state officials attending the ceremony.
The groundbreaking marks the beginning of industrial revitalization in the area, which was crippled by a train crash in 2005. The accident resulted in a chlorine spill that killed nine people and significantly damaged the property and equipment of many businesses.
Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, said during the ground breaking ceremony that Recleim has chosen a resilient, hard-working community to call home. He also commended the ingenuity of the company.
“This is a great day for us,” said Recleim Plant General Manager Douglas Huffer. “It's really exciting to see life coming back to the mill area.”
Huffer said the old Hickman Mill plant will undergo a “top-to-bottom” renovation. By the beginning of 2014, the large empty space that attendees of the ceremony were walking through on Tuesday will be equipped with recycling machinery from Germany.
According to the Recleim website, it's the only recycling company in America that uses the Adelmann system, a state-of-the-art technology from Germany, that “exceeds all existing Environmental Protection Agency standards for recycling and de-manufacturing of appliances and electronics.”
The new plant will recycle a variety of appliances and electronics. Huffer said that once the plant is fully functioning, it will be able to recycle more than 400,000 refrigerators a year.
Will Williams, director of the Economic Development Partnership in Aiken, said the Graniteville community has managed to keep its positive energy despite the challenges it has faced since the train accident. He feels that Graniteville residents will feel even more positive with the new plant in place, and those good vibes will be a factor in an improving economy for that community.
“This will be outstanding for Graniteville,” Williams said. “It's going to be a tremendous boost for the area.”
Huffer said hiring plant staff should begin at the end of this year or in early 2014.
S.C. Rep. Roland Smith thanked Recleim for choosing Graniteville as a place to locate. He said the Graniteville community is a very supportive one and that its residents are ready to get to work.
“They will stand behind you,” Smith said.
Amy Banton is the City beat reporter for the Aiken Standard. Originally from Rustburg, Va., she graduated from Randolph Macon Woman's College and has been with the newspaper since 2010.