Kershaw County Economic Development Office | 80 Campus Dr. | P.O. Box 763 Camden, SC 29021 | Tel: 803-425-7685 | Fax: 803-425-7687 |

Foreign investment drives job creation in Midlands

December 21, 2015

Chuck Crumbo
Columbia Regional Business Report

The Midlands racked up nearly two dozen economic development projects in 2015 ranging from expansion of a tire plant to the arrival of a new company joining the region’s insurance industry.

The projects, many of them announced by foreign-based companies, are expected to create 2,200 jobs. Two foreign-based companies – Germany’s Continental Tire (800) and China’s Haier Corp. (410) account for more than half of the job announcements made during the year.

Foreign investment has been key to economic development efforts of the state, which has more than 1,200 international establishments operating within its borders.

For the third time in the last four years, IBM-Plant Location International in September ranked the Palmetto State first per million inhabitants in landing jobs through foreign investment, ahead of Tennessee and Kentucky.

“The reason we’ve seen so much success in recruiting international companies to South Carolina is our highly-skilled workforce that has proven, time and time again, that it’s capable of making any product, and making it well,” said Gov. Nikki Haley. “This ranking by IBM-Plant Location International truly is a testament to everything that South Carolina has to offer as a destination for businesses from around the world.”

Here’s a brief look at projects announced for the Columbia region, listed by alphabetically and by county.

Aiken County

AmbioPharm Inc. – The manufacturer of peptides and the development of generic drugs is investing $18.8 million in the expansion of its existing operations and creating 100 jobs over the next five years. APi, which currently employs 200 workers, is planning to add approximately 40,000 square feet to its North Augusta facility. The expansion in North Augusta is anticipated to be completed by the third quarter of 2018.

Calhoun County

Fitts Company – The design and manufacturing company is investing $4.2 million, constructing an office and manufacturing facility in Gaston, and creating 105 jobs over five years. Located on 17 acres, the new facility will include a 70,000-square-foot office and manufacturing facility that will more than double the size of the company’s existing space in Lexington. Construction is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2016.

Silver Springs Bottled Water Company – The bottled water manufacturing firm acquired Hickory Springs Bottling Inc.’s existing operation in Elloree and plans to invest $16.3 million and create 37 jobs over the next five years. Silver Springs will be adding new high-speed bottling equipment.

Wire Mesh Corp. – A manufacturer of welded wire products, Wire Mesh Corp. is establishing manufacturing operations in St. Matthews. The company plans to invest $13.9 million in the facility and create 50 jobs over the next five years. The company’s 143,000-square-foot Calhoun County facility will focus on the production of PC strand from steel rod.

Kershaw County

Haier America – The U.S. unit of China-based Haier Group announced plans to expand its refrigerator manufacturing operation. Haier said the $72 million investment is expected to create 410 jobs at its Camden plant in the next five years. Haier constructing a 250,000-square-foot addition to the existing 365,000 square-foot facility will allow the company to increase its annual refrigeration production up to 500,000 units. Construction is anticipated to be completed in the second quarter of 2018.

Suominen – The Finland-based supplier of nonwovens is expanding its manufacturing operations in Bethune, creating at least 25 jobs over the coming years. Suominen specializes in the manufacturing of nonwovens for wiping, hygiene and medical products, such as wet wipes, feminine care products and swabs. As a truly global firm, Suominen employs approximately 600 people in three continents.

Lexington County

OMP Mechtron – The manufacturer of mechanical parts and electronic integration is investing $2.9 million in its new Gilbert operations, creating 20 jobs over the next five years. OMP Mechtron, LLC is the U.S. branch of OMP Mechtron S.P.A., an Italy-based producer of mechanical parts. Located at 4335 Augusta Highway, the 20,791-square-foot building will house the production of printed circuit board assemblies, electronic and electromechanical assemblies and wiring.

Republic National Distributing – The distributor of wine and spirits announced plans to invest $10 million and construct a 129,500-square-foot addition to its existing 206,000-square-foot facility in the Lexington County Industrial Park. The company will employ more than 500 staff at the facility when the project is completed this summer. The family owned, privately held firm employs more than 7,800 workers in 20 states and the District of Columbia.

Shaw Industries – In August, the company said it was investing $45 million in its carpet fiber plant near Irmo for additional capacity for both nylon and polyester production. The investment will create more than 50 jobs. The plant’s new polyester extrusion operations will include the use of recycled plastic beverage bottles – expanding Shaw’s use of the material.

Sun Solutions – The Orangeburg-headquartered company, which specializes in the delivery of print and other media communications, announced plans to construct a new building and create 50 jobs, representing an investment of $10.5 million. Sun expects to complete construction of a 105,000-square foot building on Old Dunbar Road in West Columbia. The project is slated to be completed in the summer of 2016.

Newberry County

Sea Pro Boats – A popular brand in boating, the company is returning to the market with ‘The Next Wave’ – a new line of bay boats and center console offshore fishing boats. The company is investing $5.5 million and expects to create 238 jobs at its new operations in in Whitmire. Originally founded in 1987, Sea Pro Boats, a Midlands-based company, was purchased by Brunswick Corporation in 2005. Sea Pro’s new facility, a 200,000-square-foot building in Whitmire, will house the company’s headquarters, as well as its manufacturing operations.

Orangeburg County

Bimbo Bakeries USA – A subsidiary of Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo announced plans to invest $9.3 million investment and create 30 jobs over the next five years. Bimbo Bakeries USA will remain in its existing facility in Orangeburg, but will renovate and install new equipment to expand its capability.  

GKN Aerospace – Based in England, the company will open a new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility to produce inlet lip skins for the Boeing 737 MAX and 777X. The company is investing more than $20 million in the new facility, generating more than 75 jobs. Located adjacent to GKN’s existing Orangeburg facility at 348 Millennium Drive, the new 126,000-square-foot facility will be set up to produce the one piece 737 MAX and two piece 777X lip skins, the leading edge of the nacelle – the pod-like structure that houses the aircraft’s engine.

Inbra Indústrias Químicas – The Brazil-based company, which specializes in the production of plastic and rubber additives, announced it is investing $7.7 million to establish a 24,000-square-foot chemical additive production facility in Orangeburg. The project is Inbra’s first investment outside Brazil. The investment is expected to create 14 new jobs. The new facility is scheduled to be in operation by mid-2016.

Richland County

BOEING/USC – The University of South Carolina’s McNair Aerospace Center and Boeing announced in August to team up on advanced research projects. The research agreement will provide funding for up to two dozen research projects that explore ways to improve Boeing products. Boeing’s investment could be up to $5 million over the length of the agreement. The agreement marks the first formal partnership between Boeing and USC.

Enstar US – In October, Enstar Group Limited announced plans to establish its U.S. subsidiary in Northeast Columbia. The subsidiary, called Enstar US, is investing $500,000 in the Richland County operations and expects to create more than 60 jobs over the next nine months. In January, Bermuda-based Enstar Group closed on the $218 million acquisition of Companion Property & Casualty from BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, renamed it Sussex Insurance Company, retaining all existing 120 jobs.

General Information Services – The Lexington County-based company is expanding its Midlands operations by investing $2.7 million in a Northeast Columbia facility, creating 91 jobs over the next five years. GIS is leasing 18,000 square feet of office space at 1001 Pinnacle Point Drive.

Total Quality Logistics – A third-party logistics provider, the company announced Aug. 31 plans to establish logistics and sales operations in downtown Columbia. The company said it’s investing $565,000 in the facility, creating an expected 100 new jobs over the next five years. With existing operations in Charleston, TQL’s new office is in the Bank of America Financial Center, 1901 Main St.

Sumter County

Continental Tire – In September, the company broke ground on a major expansion at its Sumter plant that’s projected to double annual production capacity to about 8 million tires and add about 800 jobs to the local workforce. “This announcement celebrates Continental’s trust in the Sumter facility to continue delivering quality products to our customers,” said Jochen Etzel, CEO of Continental Tire the Americas, a unit of Continental A.G., headquartered in Germany.

The plant is expected to produce 4 million tires by 2016. When the project is completed in 2021, Conti expects to have 1,600 workers on the payroll. Continental, which began production in the existing 1 million-square-foot plant in October 2013, said the second phase will total about 720,000 square feet and include a new production hall and expanded warehouses for raw materials and finished goods. The finished goods warehouse will be nearly 1½ times its original size. While no dollar amount was announced for the second phase, Continental said it will meet the projected investment of $500 million announced in October 2011.

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"The new Mechatronics Program at Central Carolina Technical College's Kershaw County Campus will help us meet one of the most significant needs of our industries today -- the industrial maintenance technician. Graduates will be well prepared to perform a critical role in the modern, automated workplace found in today's manufacturing plants. This is essential for the continued success of our local industries and broadens the opportunities of our students."
-- Peggy McLean - Kershaw County Economic Development Director