outh Carolina’s counties are scoring major investment and reinvestment into its manufacturing communities.
In January 2023, Greenville Area Development Corporation (GADC) CEO Mark Farris announced 2,326 new jobs and $468 million capital investment from more than 22 different projects in 2022. That goes a long way toward explaining the larger metro area’s No. 1 finish among Tier-2 metros in this year’s Top Metros rankings (see p. 92).
“The capital investment greatly adds to our community’s economic vitality, diversity and tax base. The announced jobs, with mean wages well above both county and South Carolina averages, portend a bright future for our community. Raising per capita income is always a primary goal in our efforts, and we continue to raise the bar,” said Farris in the official release.
Plant Spartanburg will produce BMW’s XM Hybrid model.
Photo courtesy of BMW
“The industries are diverse, with 13 of 22 announcements being in GADC’s core target industries, and 15 of them in manufacturing verticals, which are a historical strength for Greenville County,” he said. “The year saw strong response from automotive, life sciences and office/headquarters, which helps to provide a varied economy that is robust and multi-faceted. Equally of note is that half of the announcements are from our existing industry.”
Representing the strongest job growth in eight years and near-record investment, GADC is approaching this year with its first formal strategic economic development plan. Three goals were established in the plan: further business development; equip the county with tools and sites; and expand organizational outreach and capacity.
In February 2023, GE Appliances, a Haier company, announced a $50 million investment to expand its South Carolina presence.
The company is building a new 584,820-sq.-ft. distribution warehouse in the county’s Augusta Grove Business Park, creating 45 new jobs over the next five years. The new facility is expected to be operational by the beginning of 2024.
“The business-friendly climate of South Carolina and Greenville County, and the proximity to Inland Port Greer, make this an ideal location to build our newest distribution center in support of our growing business. Investments like this allow us to quickly respond to external factors and keep product flowing efficiently throughout our entire network as we grow and enter new product categories,” said GE Appliances Distribution VP Marcia Brey in South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster’s announcement.
Heading 36 minutes northeast to Spartanburg, South Carolina one will find that same enthusiasm is shared throughout the region.
In 2022, the county had over $3.2 billion in industrial investment and almost 2,000 jobs added to the community, claiming Site Selection’s No. 1 spot in Tier-2 Top Metros Per Capita.
“It has truly been the economic gift that keeps giving. When they located here, there was a sense of hope that the jobs that they were bringing and the quality of product that were manufacturing in Spartanburg would help recover the jobs lost through the offshoring of the textile industry.”
— Katherine O’Neill, Chief Economic Development Officer, One Spartanburg, talking about BMW’s Plant Spartanburg, which opened there 30 years ago
“Spartanburg has seen unprecedented interest in product development across all of its economic development ecosystem,” says Katherine O’Neill, chief economic development officer at One Spartanburg. “I think what companies are finding in Spartanburg is a fertile environment in which to invest and grow.”
BMW, which opened its Plant Spartanburg doors 30 years ago, is investing $1 billion to prepare for production of the BMW XM hybrid model. According to the company’s October 2022 announcement, the plant currently supports production of 17 various EV and non-EV BMW vehicle models. The company paired its announcement with news of an additional $700 million investment in an EV battery assembly facility 25 minutes south in Woodruff, South Carolina.
“It has truly been the economic gift that keeps giving. When they located here, there was a sense of hope that the jobs that they were bringing and the quality of product that were manufacturing in Spartanburg would help recover the jobs lost through the offshoring of the textile industry,” says O’Neill.
Following the exit of textile manufacturing in the region, a skilled workforce remained. Companies such as BMW took advantage. BMW today employs over 11,000 workers at Plant Spartanburg. As BMW goes electric and adopts sustainable manufacturing operations the county hopes the future will bring exponential EV growth.
This includes supplier growth; these Tier 1 and Tier 2 companies support BMW and other leading auto manufacturers in the state like Volvo and Mercedes-Benz. BMW’s “local for local” principle aims to purchase supplies where manufacturing takes place, an initiative that’s catapulting supplier growth around the entire state.
EV production at Plant Spartanburg will be supported by BMW Group’s partnership with EV battery technology company Envision AESC. In December 2022, Envision announced plans for an $810 million battery cell gigafactory in Florence County, South Carolina.
The facility will create 1,170 new jobs producing lithium-ion battery cells specifically designed for the sixth generation of BMW eDrive technology and EV vehicles.
Inside the ‘Battery Belt’
One year to the date after its first site selection visit at Berkeley County’s Camp Hall Industrial Park not far from Charleston, Redwood Materials announced plans to build a $3.5 billion Battery Materials Campus in December 2022.
“Redwood’s investment is transformational to our state and region. Not only in the size of the investment, but by their mission to provide a circular and sustainable supply chain for the electric vehicle sector,” said Berkeley County Director of Economic Development Kristen Lanier. “When you have major OEMs like BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo in your state all making substantial commitments and investments in EV, Redwood Materials brings an incredible added value further solidifying South Carolina’s automotive sector.”
Site readiness, workforce, market proximity and speed to market were assets the company couldn’t pass up. In their release the company stated that America’s “Battery Belt” is a manufacturing corridor stretching from Michigan to Georgia, where hundreds of GWh per year in battery cell production capacity will be built between now and 2030.
“When you have major OEMs like BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo in your state all making substantial commitments and investments in EV, Redwood Materials brings an incredible added value further solidifying South Carolina’s automotive sector.”
— Kristen Lanier, Berkeley County Director of Economic Development
As South Carolina is positioned in the heart of the belt, Redwood plans to bring lithium and nickel production and refinement to domestic anode and cathode manufacturing. Having these components readily available within the U.S. is an important step to avoid outsourcing to Asia.
Redwood’s 600-plus-acre campus will recycle, refine and manufacture anode and cathode components, producing 100 GWh per year with opportunity for future expansion at the site. The project will create over 1,500 jobs in the community. The company plans to have its first recycling process running by Q4 of 2024, building out manufacturing operations step by step.
Redwood worked with the county to obtain funds as part of the deal to address critical infrastructure needs like road widening.
“Redwood’s existing partners like Toyota, Volvo, Panasonic and Envision AESC also have a strong foothold in this region, in addition to many other battery manufacturers,” the company said in its announcement.”South Carolina allows us to meet our partners’ demand while also scaling in the most sustainable and cost-effective way.”
Alexis Elmore joined Conway Data in 2022 as associate editor for Site Selection. A 2021 graduate of the University of Georgia, she studied journalism and communications before moving back to Atlanta to pursue her career. As an editor for Site Selection and contributor to Conway's Custom Content guides, she writes about economic development efforts and corporate growth happening around the globe.