#644 – Manufacturing Growth Continues in South CarolinaJul 18, 2017
South Carolina ranks as Agracel’s #2 state in terms of dollar investment to date. We have 11 development projects in the state with a number of additional projects in the pipelines. We are excited about the continued positive development activity occurring in the state. Below is a recent article, in part, about the growth of manufacturing in The Palmetto State.
Manufacturing Growth Continues in South Carolina
Liz Segrist, Charleston (SC) Regional Business Journal, June 12, 2017
The state began making a broader shift away from textiles and sporadic manufacturing toward global manufacturing a few decades ago, with the opening of Michelin in Greenville County in the 1970s, followed by BMW’s launch in Spartanburg County in the 1990s.
“We started moving from a sort-of generic manufacturing state to a brand manufacturing state, and that has intensified over the years,” S.C. Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said.
Former Gov. Nikki Haley focused heavily on recruiting manufacturers to the state. The state Commerce Department planned recruiting trips around the world to market South Carolina as a place to put down manufacturing roots, and amenities like lucrative incentives packages, available land and proximity to the Port of Charleston helped sweeten the deal.
“I think Boeing was a major bellwether. … Charleston had never been a strong manufacturing center. It was more of a hospitality, tourism town, then Boeing signaled a fundamental change for Charleston,” Hitt said. “Charleston has now become a pretty strong manufacturing name.”
Boeing S.C. continues to increase production at its North Charleston site, which employs about 7,000 workers, many of whom build 787 Dreamliners.
Hitt said having globally recognized companies operating in South Carolina attracts similar companies and their suppliers — as evidenced by the five tire manufacturers and three automotive companies now in South Carolina.
“I have definitely seen the pace pick up in recent years. … We have come into our own. We are building very complex pieces of equipment. … We build the most complex consumer products in the world here,” Hitt said.
As BMW hits 25 years of manufacturing in Greer, Hitt reflected on the automaker’s progression. BMW made 35,000 cars in its first full year of operation; the plant now produces around 1,400 cars a day. The company continues to expand in the Upstate.
The manufacturing sector “has grown up bigger, faster and more complex than we thought. … The reason the world comes to our door now is that those men and women in the plants and their capabilities are producing those complex consumer products, like a BMW. It the best advertising we’ve ever had.”
Mercedes-Benz Vans needs to hire 1,300 workers for its expanding van manufacturing campus in North Charleston by the end of the decade. Volvo Cars plans to hire at least 2,000 people by 2018 to build its new S60 sedans in Berkeley County. The bulk of production hiring is expected to ramp up this fall at the Sweden-based, Chinese-owned automaker’s new S.C. campus.
Infrastructure issues and workforce shortages continue to be a struggle for companies once they open up shop in the state. Many companies are left recruiting employees from out of state, and sometimes beyond the Southeast, to fill positions, manufacturing executives have said.
Hitt said the state wants to help companies find and train enough workers to fill the jobs being created, including through its ReadySC and apprenticeship programs. He and Gov. Henry McMaster traveled the state recently to hear from manufacturers about their workforce gaps.
“Companies want the best and the brightest,” Hitt said. “They need a workforce that’s ready.”