By BF Editors
From the March/April 2023 Issue
Early this year, the South Carolina Department of Commerce (S.C. Commerce) released its 2022 industry recruitment results which reflect historic economic activity. From January to December 2022, the state announced total capital investment of $10.27 billion, the single largest year in state history. That investment represents 120 projects and the creation of 14,083 new jobs.
“It’s no accident or surprise that South Carolina is breaking economic development records,” said Governor Henry McMaster at the time. “We have consistently proven that our people are among the most talented and hard-working in the world, that we’re committed to fostering a competitive business-friendly environment, and that there is no better place to live, work, and raise a family. These historic achievements are a direct result of the South Carolinians who make our state great and understand the value of hard work.”
Industry recruitment soared in multiple categories in 2022. The record-breaking capital investment of more than $10 billion reflects a 118% increase over 2017, and announced investments in rural South Carolina in 2022 increased 30% over 2017. While domestic-based companies represented the majority, overall foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2022 increased 371% over 2021.
“South Carolina’s 2022 industry recruitment is not only one for the record books, but it also reinforces that our state is leading this transformational time in business,” said Secretary of Commerce Harry M. Lightsey III. “We are cultivating an increasingly diverse, technologically advanced economy that will continue to create opportunities for our citizens for generations to come.”
In terms of planned capital investment, Redwood Materials manufacturing facility in Berkeley County led the pack. The company makes anode and cathode battery components for and plans to invest $3.5 billion for a 600-acre campus in Camp Hall Commerce Park in Ridgeville. Announcing the project in December, Redwood Materials Founder and CEO, JB Straubel, said, “South Carolina’s commitment to creating a secure energy future and a competitive landscape for electric vehicle manufacturing, supported by a world-class workforce, fast and efficient logistics, zero-carbon electricity, and a phenomenal site made it a smart decision for Redwood to invest here.”
To facilitate the burgeoning EV industry, Gov. McMaster issued Executive Order 2022-31 last October, which called for the creation of a website that is “a one-stop-shop” for information about the industry. Created by S.C. Commerce, the website — scpowersev.com — serves as a virtual hub highlighting the state’s EV industry and the capacity for industry expansion. It launched in February 2023.
“EV-related companies account for more than half of the $10.27 billion in economic development South Carolina announced last year. That speaks to our state’s great potential to lead in this sector,” said Gov. McMaster. “Our business-friendly climate and our greatest resource—our people—make South Carolina the place where the EV industry can transform the future. And this website will help us tell that story.”
Reach The World From Northeastern South Carolina
Companies across the nation struggle to find locations for manufacturing and distribution facilities due to increasingly high real estate costs along major logistics corridors and a lack of available workforce. With a workforce of up to one million within an hour’s drive, a strategic location at the intersections of I-95 and I-20, and home to an inland port terminal and major CSX railyard, northeastern South Carolina is a location that has proven to be successful for many companies.
Generations of manufacturing experience have led the region to develop the educational infrastructure needed to recruit and train a workforce for most any kind of manufacturing or warehousing operation. Major facilities for well-known companies like Honda, Schaeffler Group, Sonoco, Nucor, Wyman Gordon, AVM, Harbor Freight Tools, DSM, Nan Ya Plastics, and others dot the landscape and provide evidence that a quality workforce is here supporting these companies.
It doesn’t stop there. Growing companies continue to recognize the benefit of choosing northeastern South Carolina. Envision AESC, a world-leading Japanese electric vehicle battery technology company, recently announced its plans to build an $810 million state-of-the-art battery cell gigafactory in Florence County.
NESA, a nonprofit economic development group, provides a one-stop shop for site selection assistance, connection to workforce training and staffing services, connection to state and local incentives granting entities, and other technical support services that companies would normally spend a lot of time attempting to find. Additionally, NESA maintains a comprehensive database of available industrial real estate and engineering due diligence documents to further expedite a site search.
Just under one million square feet of speculative space is being developed in northeastern South Carolina. These buildings include 117,180 square feet and 100,107 square feet in Florence County; 100,000 square feet in Georgetown County; 553,350 square feed in Horry County; and 52,000 square feet in Williamsburg County. Two buildings are currently available, including 100,440 square feet in Chesterfield County and 50,000 square feet in Marlboro County. Plans are also being developed for up to 1.3 million square feet just two miles from Inland Port Dillon.
There is no doubt that these buildings will not be available for long, not only because of sheer demand, but because of northeastern South Carolina’s logistical advantages. From its two major interstate highways to its direct rail access to the Port of Charleston via Inland Port Dillon, the region’s infrastructure grants cost-effective access to domestic and international markets.