Orangeburg’s Husqvarna Facility Has History To Match Its Parent
Mar 01, 2017 07:04PM
● By Makayla Gay
By Richard Breen
Photo Provided By Husqvarna
It’s normal to have pride in one’s work, but how about when you can ride down the street and see the products made in your hometown factory being used by friends and neighbors?
Over many decades and through many names, an Orangeburg facility has been churning out lawn mowers to keep yards and fields tidy across South Carolina and around the world.
“When I see a commercial landscaper using our products, it means a lot,” says Todd Anderson, manager of manufacturing excellence with Husqvarna Group. “When I have a chance to talk to people, it’s usually a pretty good story I get to hear. People do love to work outside. We try to make it a great experience.”
Husqvarna operates a 1.9 million-square-foot facility in addition to some other leased warehouse space in and around Orangeburg. The main factory is home to Husqvarna’s tractors and zero-turn mowers.
The company also has facilities in Georgia and Arkansas for its walk-behind and hand-held equipment, respectively.
“If you can ride on it, it’s made in Orangeburg,” Anderson says.
In addition to Husqvarna equipment being put to use locally, Anderson says one can travel to the other side of the globe and see their mowers at work.
“Australia and New Zealand are surprisingly good markets,” he says. “Europe is a good market, and so is Canada.”
Rifles and typewriters
Husqvarna was born in 1689 in Sweden as a musket factory. Its company history details a diverse history as a maker of everything from bicycles to sewing machines. The
facility on Old Elloree Road has taken a number of twists and turns as well.
“The plant is actually an old Smith Corona typewriter plant,” Anderson says.
In the 1970s, it was owned by the Roper Lawn Mower Co., which made Sears mowers in addition to its own branded products. Since then, the sign outside has changed multiple
times, carrying the American Yard Products and Electrolux names, and eventually Husqvarna when that company was spun off from Electrolux in 2006.
“They’re the largest manufacturing employer in the region,” says Gregg Robinson, executive director of the Orangeburg County Development Commission.
The plant has about 2,200 workers right now, including temporary staff, as it operates at peak volume to get products ready for outdoor power season.
“We’ve got 6-7 months of the year where we’re all-in,” Anderson says. “Seventy percent of those workers we consider to be core employees.”
Robinson has been working with Husqvarna on expansion projects since he joined OCDC in 2005. The most recent milestone came in January when the company cut the ribbon on a new, 513,000-square-foot distribution facility.
“We had been working with them for 10 years on that project,” Robinson says.
The company has committed to more than $100 million worth of expansion projects through 2024.
“It is gratifying to see their confidence in this community and in this state,” Lewis Gossett, president and chief executive of S.C. Manufacturers Alliance, told Columbia Business Monthly. “This confidence shows that we have a quality workforce in South Carolina and we have been trusted to make quality products. We hope Husqvarna’s growth and success continues for many years to come.”
A ‘Swedish connection’
“Husqvarna is such an important piece to the Orangeburg area and its economy,” Gossett continues. “They are not only important employers that provide a livelihood for a large number of families in this region, but they are also good corporate citizens.”
Robinson estimates that every dollar from Husqvarna’s payroll is re-spent five times locally. He and Anderson can also name several South Carolina suppliers and logistics partners the company supports, from Nucor steel to Briggs & Stratton engines to the locally grown wood that goes into the North American Container products used for shipping.
“They support community functions significantly through their corporate giving,” Robinson adds.
For its part, Husqvarna lauds its partnerships with local leaders.
“We get a tremendous amount of support from county council and city council,” Anderson says.
Anderson says Husqvarna is happy to assist local economic developers in recruiting other companies to the area.
“Gregg will occasionally ask us to meet with people and share our experiences,” Anderson says. He’s not certain what, if any, role Husqvarna played in attracting Swedish automaker Volvo to nearby Berkeley County, but admits the region has “kind of a Swedish connection going on right now.”
A Husqvarna employee for more than a decade, Anderson points out his ancestors hail from near the town of Huskvarna, where the company was born.
“I’ve come full circle,” he jokes.
He says that aside from the six-hour time difference, there aren’t many hurdles in melding the company’s Scandinavian culture with a Palmetto State workplace.
“Their culture is one of support,” Anderson says. “The Swedish are very innovative people. They have a rich history and are very proud.”
As does the Orangeburg factory that bears the company’s name.