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A high-tech manufacturer of robotic welding machines said this week its Upstate business is picking up faster than expected.
That news means AWL Automation, a local subsidiary of Netherlands-based AWL-Techniek, is expanding its Spartanburg County operation faster than it thought it would when the company got off the ground last year.
That’s forced AWL to secure additional space for its Upstate manufacturing operation courtesy of Spartanburg Community College’s Spark Center, and bring on employees at a faster than anticipated rate, according to Per Blohm, General Manager USA of AWL Automation.
Blohm said the company will begin moving a portion of its operation into a more than 40,000-square foot space as soon as next week. He said orders for the company’s specialized products, a mixture of laser and other automated welding technologies designed for the automotive industry, have outpaced the company’s current space on Orchard Park Boulevard.
“We’re probably about a year ahead of the schedule we laid down when we first got here,” Blohm said. “There are several clients driving the move but one in particular has placed a much bigger order than anticipated so we’re having to ramp things up quicker than we originally planned.”
AWL announced last summer that it was investing some $2.5 million and creating 71 new full-time jobs in Spartanburg County. The company has started renovating a 33,000-square foot facility on Orchard Park Boulevard and hired approximately 40 full-time employees to date.
Blohm said that’s more employees than the company had planned to hire at this point, and he said AWL will look to bring on an additional 10 or so employees in coming months as it shifts a portion of its operations into the Spark Center’s Tyger River space.
“The ultimate plan for us is to bring our current space fully online and then build additional space on 11-acres near this one,” Blohm said, referencing AWL’s current location on Orchard Park Boulevard. “But the timeline for that is next year, so the Spark Center space is going to be vital for us.”
Leanne Burkhead, Director of Spark Center SC, said one of the center’s missions is to provide temporary space to Upstate companies looking to grow.
“If they’re anticipating an increase in their workforce, then working with them to offer that kind of space to help with the expansion, that’s part of our mission,” Burkhead said.
Blohm said AWL is looking to hire mechanical, hardware and electrical engineers, along with robotics programmers and mechatronic technicians.
“The ideal is that they come to us fully trained and with experience,” Blohm said Monday. “But the reality is that if someone is mechanically inclined and interested, has certain soft skills and the right attitude, and we might be able to train them. For instance, there is an individual who’s working for us right now who is a former chef, of all things. He’s got a fantastic attitude and the aptitude, and we think with the right kind of training, he can become an engineer down the road. Those are the kinds of people we’re looking for.”