South Carolina Success: Interview with Jim Thompson, VP Component Operations at Johnson Controls Recycling Center

Mollee D. Harper

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

We sat down with James (Jim) S. Thompson, Vice President of Component Operations for Johnson Controls. During our interview, Thompson provides a high level overview of Johnson Controls International Plc. and their global reach in building and energy growth platforms to more than 150 countries. Thompson shares details about the Florence-based recycling center opening in 2011 and its significant growth and economic contributions to the State over the past five years. He shares why the area was selected, his work with colleges and his pride in the local workforce and community.

Thompson shared, “We opened the recycling center five years ago in Florence. We have grown to 350 employees in our facility. We recycle about 130 metric tons a year, which is some 13 million used batteries that we separate into different materials streams that can be reused. Poly and metal come back to our different plants and are reused.”

“There are 13 million used automotive batteries in this region that have to go to a recycler, and our goal was to build a facility that will safely and responsible recycle right here. The other reason we picked the Florence location is because it is centrally located around our plants. We have one manufacturing plant located in Winston-Salem, NC; two plants in Florence (distribution and recycling) and one more component plant in West Union, which produces grids and plastic components.”

Thompson continued, “The other strength in doing business in South Carolina is a result of the State’s outstanding colleges. We get a lot of our technical people from Clemson University and University of South Carolina.  We are very engaged with our colleges and local tech schools. We have had great success in the area with good hard working people and the technical competency we require.”

Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Johnson Controls has evolved into a global leader in diversified technology in building efficiency and power solutions since its founding in 1885 with the invention of the first electric room thermostat. Today, they are a multi industrial leader serving customers in more than 150 countries. Johnson Controls provides a wide range of products and services including: intelligent buildings, efficient energy solutions, integrated infrastructure and next generation transportation systems.

There are two main divisions that roll up under the umbrella of this global, powerhouse corporation. Johnson Controls Building Efficiency is a leading provider of equipment, controls and services for heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, refrigeration, and security systems. Johnson Controls Power Solutions is the leading supplier of lead acid batteries for virtually every type of passenger car, light truck or utility vehicle as well as the leading independent supplier of hybrid systems.

The Johnson Controls Recycling Center is a world-class facility that provides used battery recycling protecting our environment and resources, by keeping batteries out of our landfills and reusing raw material for new battery production. 

Thompson offered, “Our initial investment in the Florence Recycling Center was over $150 million. We didn’t stop there. We constantly reinvest into that plant to improve safety, environmental controls and make it a better place for our people to come to work every day. We are very proud of our workforce in Florence. We are very proud of our plant. We seriously want to make this the best recycling plant in the world.”

The Johnson Controls Recycling Center is part of the Power Solutions division and is located at 1800 Papermill Road in Florence, SC. The facility was opened in 2011 and features a range of advanced and proven environment control technologies and works in tandem with the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). The Florence Recycling Center ensures hundreds of millions of spent batteries are properly recycled every year and avoid being disposed of in landfills, protecting the environment. The Florence recycling system recycles close to 13 million batteries every year, turning those materials into the raw materials that make new batteries, also protecting our natural resources. 

Thompson explained, “SC is such a good place for companies to locate. It can be a challenge to compete for talent but our people and our relationships with the colleges and tech schools are superb. We believe the talent is here and we continue to grow it. We work with tech schools to develop continuing education program that allow incumbent workforce to add new skills when needed.”

“We do a lot of organizational work as well such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and March of Dimes, to name a few. We help local schools and churches and get involved in other community projects. In Oconee County, we even clean hiking trails. It’s critical for us to be involved in our communities. This is not only myself, but our plant managers and leaders and hourly people all get engaged.” He said.

“Not only do we bring direct jobs to this market, but we bring thousands of indirect jobs here as well. We hire industrial cleaning crews to come in. We buy equipment local and bring in maintenance folks. So we not only impact the direct people in our plants but we impact thousands indirectly through our plants.”

Thompson concluded, “We are very proud of our plants in South Carolina, the communities we represent, and the talent we get. I am really proud of our local workforce. Many are from the Florence area and most are from the state. It’s a great location for us. I live here. I’ll retire here. I love the state. I love the people in state.” 

James (Jim) S. Thompson has served as Vice President of Component Operations in the Power Solutions division for Johnson Controls since January 2013. Thompson joined Johnson Controls in 2005 and served as Director of Distributions and Director of Component Operations for the Americas before promoting to his current posts. Thompson received his BS degree from Nebraska-Lincoln in Mechanical Engineering and his MBA from University of Michigan in Finance and Marketing.


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