As the annual NCAA March Madness basketball tournament wraps up this weekend, Manufacturing Madness crowned a state champion on Wednesday.
Steel beat out three other contenders to be named “The Coolest Thing Made in SC”, with Nucor Steel Berkeley to Huger winning the inaugural statewide competition launched in February by the SC Manufacturers Alliance with a corporate partner Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina.
“We knew we wanted to celebrate manufacturing in South Carolina. We’re always looking for new, creative, and innovative ways to do this,” Sara Hazzard, president and CEO of SCMA, told Columbia Regional Business Report.
The organization asked the general public to suggest SC-made products for the honor and received 175 nominations, Hazzard said. Voting narrowed that field down to a field of 16 competitors, halved each week before the final four, honored at a ceremony at the SC Statehouse, were decided.
More than 110,000 votes were cast on the contest website, scmanufacturingmadness.com, during the contest, Hazzard said.
“We were blown away by the response. The general public really got excited about the contest,” she said. “The employees of each of the participating manufacturing companies were very enthusiastic about the idea of their product being nominated and their company being recognized. It clearly showed how proud South Carolina manufacturing workers are of what they do every day and the products they make.
Mike Lee, vice president and general manager of Nucor Steel Berkeley, received the winner’s trophy from SC Governor Henry McMaster and SC Commerce Secretary Harry Lightsey.
“What a great idea to show what we’re doing in our state,” Lee said. “There are so many amazing things we do in South Carolina that no one knew we had ever done this, not only for South Carolina, but also for our country and the world.”
The other three finalists were: Electrolux and Frigidaire single-door refrigerators and freezers, manufactured by Electrolux Home Products to Anderson; the F-16 Fighting Falcon, manufactured by Lockheed Martin in Greenville; and the Talon 1000 X-4 side-by-side all-terrain vehicle, manufactured by American Honda Motor Co. Inc. Manufacturing in South Carolina in Timmonville.
“All four finalists are trend setters,” Hazzard said as he introduced the finalists, who each received a plaque from Lightsey. “They are a game changer.”
In operation since 1996, Nucor’s Huger plant manufactures steel plate and beams for industries such as agriculture, automotive, appliances, construction, energy and transportation. It employs 975 people and is the state’s largest recycler, converting recycled steel scrap into 3.5 million tons of steel annually, Hazzard said.
Greenhouse gas emissions from the Berkeley County plant are also less than half the average for all global steelmakers, according to the SCMA.
“South Carolina’s manufacturing industry is a leader in advancing prosperity and opportunity in every corner of the state,” said Michael Harris, vice president of sales for large groups, chambers, associations and student health plans at BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina. “What this industry is doing in our state is transformational not only economically, but also in giving our citizens paths to a brighter future that has generational impacts.”
Lee said his plant’s product can be found coast to coast, from automobiles made by BMW at its Spartanburg plant to SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, which hosted this year’s Super Bowl.
“Our stainless steel products are in many amazing things that are made in this state and this country,” Lee said. “I thank everyone who participated in the Manufacturing Madness event, including all of our Nucor teammates, because they are the ones making the coolest thing made in South Carolina day after day, day or night, 24 hours a day. on 24, seven days a week, and they do it very, very safely.
The Anderson Electrolux plant employs more than 2,000 people and has produced more than 50 million refrigeration products since it opened in 1988, Hazzard said. The more than 100 robots in its new refrigeration plants make it the most automated Electrolux plant in the world.
Lockheed Martin’s Greenville plant, which plans to grow from 850 to more than 1,000 employees by 2023, has been in operation since 1984 and provides modification, maintenance and repair services for military and civilian aircraft.
Honda’s Timmonsville plant, open since 1997, employs more than 900 workers and produced three million ATVs in 2018, Hazzard said.
“As manufacturing thrives in South Carolina, so do people,” McMaster said. “This kind of contest brings the kind of recognition that just makes us stop and think for a minute what a great place this is.”
It also illustrates the resilience of the manufacturing industry amid ongoing supply chain delays and other labor complications resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Hazzard said.
“Manufacturing is thriving in South Carolina,” she said. “There are headwinds and challenges, supply chain for example, but manufacturing is resilient and very strong in South Carolina. We are excited to celebrate our industry.
Contact Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7542.