Dayco closing Walterboro plant, more than 100 losing jobs

WALTERBORO (WCIV) -- More than 120 people will lose their jobs in the upcoming months when Dayco Products closes its Colleton County manufacturing facility.

Colleton County economic development director Heyward Horton confirmed Saturday company officials told county leaders and local Dayco employees Thursday of plans to close the Walterboro plant by the end of 2017.

"Regrettably, it is true," Horton said. "That said, we are grateful for the many years that Dayco has been a part of our local economy."

Dayco's Walterboro plant opened in 1973. The site produces rubber belts for heavy equipment, automobiles, ATVs and snowmobiles.

Brian Wheeler, a corporate spokesperson for Dayco, said Saturday the decision is based on future business projections. Wheeler said company officials are expecting a possible downturn in demand for the products Dayco manufactures at its Walterboro plant.

As a result, Wheeler says the company doesn't feel continuing to operate the Walterboro facility is economically viable.

Dayco also operates a larger plant in the town of Williston, in Barnwell County, about an hour-and-a-half from Walterboro. Wheeler says it employs about 250 people.

Wheeler says the Williston facility will be absorbing production responsibilities from Walterboro, and adding jobs to accommodate the increased production. He said Walterboro employees will be offered jobs at the Williston plant.

According to Dayco's corporate website, the Walterboro-Colleton Chamber of Commerce gave the Walterboro facility its "Large Industry of the Year" award in 2014.

The same year, Gov. Nikki Haley visited the Walterboro plant to celebrate Colleton County becoming South Carolina's third certified "Work Ready Community" through the national WorkKeys program.

Horton hopes work-readiness training programs offered by the state will help the 120-plus Dayco employees losing their jobs quickly find new work in Colleton County.

"While we do not wish to lose any of our industries, the prospects to re-employ the Dayco workforce is good," Horton said. "Three of Colleton's newest manufacturers are ramping up operations. We expect there will be training opportunities to 'retool' Dayco's already seasoned workforce for these new jobs."

Colleton County's current unemployment rate is 4.2 percent, down from 14.3 percent in 2011, according to Horton.

Dayco is the second large Lowcountry employer to move forward with plans to close a local manufacturing facility in as many weeks.

DuPont announced Feb. 24 it will close it's Kevlar production facility in Moncks Corner by July, costing 113 people their jobs.

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