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AMT Senior Aerospace, which assembles parts for Boeing Co.’s Dreamliner production in North Charleston, opened this week in the Palmetto Commerce Park. DAVID WREN/STAFF

AMT Senior Aerospace, which assembles parts for Boeing Co.’s Dreamliner production in North Charleston, opened this week in the Palmetto Commerce Park. DAVID WREN/STAFF

Written by David Wren Columnist,
for the Post & Courier

A key supplier of parts for Boeing Co.’s Dreamliner program, AMT Senior Aerospace, has joined this area’s growing aerospace cluster with an assembly facility in the Crosspoint section of Palmetto Commerce Park in North Charleston.

With contractors still putting the finishing touches on its building, the company held a soft opening this week to begin assembling parts for Boeing South Carolina’s campus a few miles down the road.

Dan Guzman, general manager of the AMT plant, said the company wanted to move closer to Boeing instead of continuing to ship parts from Arlington, Wash. Although some parts for local Dreamliner production still are coming from Washington state, Guzman said that by July, AMT plans to move all of the assembly work here for Dreamliners made in South Carolina.

“Strategically, we felt it was a good move to support our customer,” Guzman said, adding that AMT has been considering a North Charleston location for more than a year. “It helps with logistics and reduces lead times. Being this close, we can improve cost structure and give better value.”

AMT opened with a dozen employees and expects to grow to 20 workers by the time all of the assembly work is moved here from Washington state. That work will take up about one-third of AMT’s 39,000-square-foot space, leaving plenty of room for future growth. The local company’s accounting and human resources divisions will be handled in Washington state.

Guzman would not say which specific parts AMT supplies for Boeing, but said the company handles complex assemblies of parts precision-machined with three-, four- and five-axis structural components. AMT’s website says the company’s parts can be used in turbine engines, nacelle mounting and attach rings, duct fittings, wheel wells, wings, struts and other airplane segments.

“Here we see another result of the ‘Boeing effect,’ ” Bobby Hitt, the state’s commerce secretary, said in a statement. Hitt said the state’s aerospace industry has seen more than 600 percent growth in jobs over the past five years.

Finding a suitable, local workforce was no problem, Guzman said, adding that ReadySC, a division of the state’s technical college system, provided pre-employment training. ReadySC provides customized training for new and expanding businesses at little or no cost.

“I was really impressed with the quality of the workforce here,” Guzman said. “We sent a portion of our team to Washington to train after going through the ReadySC program and they fit right in with our teammates there. It was like two pieces of a puzzle fitting together.”

Lonnie Carter, chairman of the Charleston Regional Development Alliance’s board, said in a statement that this area’s skilled workforce “influenced AMT’s decision to take a leap of faith and locate here to better serve Boeing and enhance its own future growth opportunities.”

Guzman, who is originally from California and worked for AMT in Washington state before taking the North Charleston job, said he has been impressed with the Lowcountry lifestyle.

“I really love it here, the people are so great,” he said. “It is very different from the West Coast, a lot more laid back, in my view.”

AMT Senior Aerospace is a division of Senior Plc, an international engineering and manufacturing group based in the United Kingdom. In addition to its aerospace division, Senior has a flextronics division that makes automotive components with a focus on diesel engines.

Boeing assembles the 787-8 and 787-9 versions of the twin-aisle Dreamliner airplane in North Charleston and a facility in Everett, Wash. Starting in 2017, the North Charleston campus will be the only facility to produce the 787-10 model, the largest of the Dreamliner airplanes.

Reach David Wren at 937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_