COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A Florida-based munitions manufacturer will put $25 million into a vacant textile plant in South Carolina to produce grenades for the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, state and company officials said Tuesday.
The firm, DSE Inc., is a privately-owned supplier of ammunition and vehicle parts for the U.S. military. The company will take over a 320,000 square-foot textile plant that closed in 2001.
The plant will be the firm's first in South Carolina and will operate under the name DSE Systems LLC. It will have a mix of production and assembly units, with space for a research-and-development center in the future, officials said.
The firm expects to begin production by next summer and employ 215 people over the next five years, according to a news release issued by the South Carolina Department of Commerce.
Dae Yong Shin, the owner and chief executive of DSE Inc., said the company has a responsibility to meet the military's needs.
''The munitions we supply are in short supply and are critical to the safety and well-being of our soldiers,'' he said.
At the plant in Gaffney, the firm will produce 40 mm grenades ''about the size of orange juice cans'' fired by mobile grenade launchers, said Jim Cook, executive director of the Cherokee County Development Board.
Cook said he is familiar with the grenades from his days in the Army, emphasizing that they ''are not hand grenades.''
''These won't explode if you drop them on the ground. They are cartridges that are armed only while being fired,'' Cook said. Soldiers fire them with grenade launchers mounted atop vehicles or in machine-gun-like versions carried by infantry soldiers.
''They are the infantryman's weapon of choice in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are in big demand today,'' Cook said.
Cook said the firm was interested in putting its facility in an area that supported the military. He said he and his staff had researched the company, met with its owners and were impressed with the firm's track record.
''We hope they'll be here a long time, offering good jobs and great benefits for citizens of Cherokee County,'' Cooke said. The firm chose Gaffney for its distribution capabilities, potential work force and location near several universities, he said.
Gaffney is about 85 miles northwest of Columbia.
DSE began as a manufacturer of metal components in 1979 and was chosen in 2005 as a prime contractor to supply the U.S. Army with a family of 40 mm munitions.