The Savannah MSA’s manufacturing firms created approximately 23% of the area’s economic output as measured by GDP, accounting for $3.6 billion of output in 2017. As of mid-2018, the number of manufacturing establishments in the Savannah CSA was 346 firms employing 22,237 workers with average weekly wage of $1,483.
Manufacturers in the Savannah MSA added 500 workers (+3%) during 2018, matching the growth of the previous year. A review of recent announcements from headlining companies in the sector point toward continued growth in 2019. The manufacturing workforce was 17,700 strong at the end of 2018, and is expected to add another 200 to 400 workers in 2019.
Gulfstream Aerospace employs about 11,000 workers in Savannah for production, maintenance, engineering, and research and development. Looking forward, there is ample backlog for the fleet of six technologically superior aircraft to keep the company very busy throughout 2019. Gulfstream delivered the first ten of its G500 models in late 2018. Overall, the G500 has set almost 30 city-pair speed records. Certification for the G600 was granted in 2018 and the first deliveries of the aircraft are expected in 2019. Gulfstream’s G650-ER completed a record-breaking flight from New Jersey to Dubai in eleven hours and two minutes, beating the previous record by one hour and forty-eight minutes. The 2018 defense bill, the McCain Act, supports two programs which potentially involve the use of the Gulfstream G550 as the airframe for new military surveillance aircraft.
The Savannah campus hosts the world’s largest purpose-built maintenance facility, a 700,000 square foot building that serves as home for the largest volume of aircraft maintenance activity on the globe. An additional service center is currently under construction on the east side of the airport. Gulfstream acquired a critical component producer, the NORDAM Group in Tulsa, in 2018. The unit manufactures important parts for the G500 and G600 series aircraft.
JCB had a busy year in 2018 that is expected to continue through and well beyond 2019. The Pooler facility with a workforce of 600 hosts manufacturing operations and the offices of the company’s North American headquarters. Production of 1,600 lightcapability, rough terrain forklifts under a ten-year, $142 million contract for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) launched in 2018. JCB extended an existing DoD contract to produce an additional 180 High Mobility Engineer Excavators (HMEE). The $72.8 million deal will double production rates by mid-2019, extend production through 2020, and create 20 new jobs. In August 2018, JCB celebrated the production of the 1000th HMEE. About 900 HMEEs are in service for the U.S. Army with another 80 used by U.S. allies. In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded a contract to JCB that could be worth up to $25 million for construction machine orders over the next five years. JCB also began production of the Loadall compact telescopic handler at the facility in the fall of 2018.
The Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA) had a record-setting year in 2018, helping to facilitate more than $500 million in investment and the announcement of 1,906 new job opportunities, the second highest job announcement in SEDA’s recorded history. In 2018, SEDA hosted the groundbreaking of the 685-acre Savannah Manufacturing Center, which will continue development in 2019. The Savannah Film office had a record breaking $120.1 million in direct spend which equates to an economic impact of more than $253.6 million by entertainment productions in Chatham County. This is an 85 percent increase from 2017 and approximately 15 times the direct spend in 2011. SEDA and SCAD continued their SCAD+ partnership to support the development of commercially viable digital products and enhance Savannah’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Further, in 2018 SEDA and World Trade Center Savannah partnered with the Wexford, Ireland County Council; the Wexford, Ireland Enterprise Centre; and the Wexford, Ireland Chamber of Commerce to launch Tradebridge, a joint program to drive international trade. As a result, 10 companies participated in trade missions going to and from Ireland, 28 companies are working 27 potential business deals and seven foreign direct investment leads have been established.
In Bryan County, AGCO, a Duluth, Georgia-based company, has begun construction in the Interstate Centre industrial park in Ellabell on a 75,000 square foot expandable assembly center for their Massey Ferguson line of tractors. The facility is scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2019. The project represents a capital investment of over $8 million, and the company will employ 31 within three years. Additionally, the Development Authority of Bryan County extended road, water, and sewer infrastructure to serve additional property in Interstate Centre II.
Bulloch County manufacturing added 5% to its workforce to stand at 2,100 workers by mid-2018. Viracon surged by 30%, increasing to 536 workers, while Briggs & Stratton jumped 20% to employ 401 workers in 2018.
Effingham County’s manufacturers added 7% to their workforce through the first half of 2018 and now employ about 1,500 persons. Edwards Interiors Areospace, a leading manufacturer in the county, increased its workforce by more than 50% from 2017 to 2018, and now employs approximately 340 workers. Georgia Pacific, the county’s largest manufacturing employer, has a workforce of about 920.
In Liberty County in the Midway Industrial Park, Elan Technology completed its newest $4 million expansion project to house a new calcinator machine. The Belgian carpet manufacturer, Balta, moved into space formerly occupied by a portion of Design Group that relocated to Memphis, and will employ 100 new workers. Design Group announced it will retain the remainder of their Midway operation in a second building they own in the Midway Industrial Park. Renovation is currently underway on that building to house distribution and office personnel. In Tradeport East, Arconic continued to add personnel and increase investment. Arconic’s growth was evident at the end of 2018 as it exceeded 300 employees and the company reported their investment had doubled from the originally announced $80 million to over $171 million to date.