Georgetown County is excited to announce that Sherpa 6, Inc., and Sherpa Air will open new facilities at the Georgetown County Airport on Airport Road. The business will invest an estimated $19 million over a five-year period and create 43 high-paying, specialized jobs in the same time frame.
The announcement is the culmination of an effort by the Airport and its manager Jim Taylor to create a new Aviation Economic Development Area at the airport that would attract aviation-centered businesses, increase use at the airport, and raise public awareness about the importance of aviation to the community and the economy.
“It all started with a phone call from them asking for something we did not have,” Taylor said. “But instead of leaving it at that, we spent eight months and a lot of effort working with them, planning for infrastructure improvements and creating what they need to be successful here in Georgetown County. That effort has paid off and we believe it will continue to pay off for all involved for some time. This is an incredible opportunity for Sherpa Air, the county, and our airport.”
Sherpa 6, a technology company, is a service-disabled veteran-owned small business that operates with a diverse team of veterans and engineers to analyze and develop solutions for the battlefield at every level of command and control. It designs and develops emerging technologies for assessing and integrating technological efficiencies to enhance soldiers’ performance on the battlefield.
This year, Sherpa 6 added an aviation division to their company called Sherpa Air, an approved FAA Part 135 non-scheduled operator to serve as a niche, special mission support contractor for both commercial and government customer sets. Part 135 operations are envisioned to service a mix of government and commercial clients.
“While Sherpa’s corporate growth is a business success story, the emphasis on customer service and integrity is our proudest achievement,” said Vinnie Pugliese, chief growth and strategy officer for Sherpa 6. “As a service-disabled, veteran-owned business that provides the utmost professional and experienced operations all over the country, we are proud to take our accomplishments to new heights in Georgetown County as we unveil our aviation business unit in the Lowcountry. We look forward to working with the county to enhance and grow the aerospace sector at the Georgetown County Airport over the course of the coming years.”
He added that Georgetown County was “by far Sherpa’s primary choice for operations."
Sherpa 6 and the new Economic Development Area will be located on a previously unused area of the airport’s old, closed runway. The project will include construction of new private hangars on the site via a long-term land lease, as well as acquiring aircraft and staffing to support operations. The primary aircraft to be used are De Havilland Dash-8 300 series configured to allow both personnel and cargo transport. Initial operations at the site are expected to begin by this fall, with utilization of temporary accommodations until the first hangar is built.
The addition of Sherpa’s operations at the airport will effectively double the airport’s fuel sales immediately, with further increases in the future, Taylor said. It will also double the airport’s overall annual economic impact. Additionally, the company will also provide training opportunities for local students, as Sherpa will partner to run an apprenticeship program for students at Horry-Georgetown Technical College.
The County and its airport worked with the S.C. Department of Commerce, as well as the S.C. Aeronautics Commission in its efforts to recruit Sherpa 6. The Aeronautics Commission provided an initial design and bidding grant for the project, while the Department of Commerce provided $250,000 for infrastructure improvements. The county is also working with the Waccamaw Regional Council of Governments to apply for EDA grant funds for additional needed infrastructure improvements. Taylor said the addition of Sherpa’s operations at the airport will allow for many additional funding opportunities from the FAA and future growth at the airport.