South Carolina has quickly made its way further into the spotlight of the manufacturing industry. Volvo announced it will build its first U.S. plant in Berkeley County, South Carolina, after seeing an increase in North American sales, according to the Detroit Free Press. Construction will start as soon as fall 2015 and the first cars are expected to make their way off the assembly line sometime in 2018.
The facilities will cost $500 million to build and will employ 4,000 employees upon completion while making 100,000 luxury cars a year, according to the Greenville News, a South Carolina publication.
It was just a couple of months earlier that Mercedes-Benz Vans announced it would spend $500 million and hire 1,300 more people to staff its kit assembly operation in North Charleston, according to the Charlotte Observer. This makes Charleston home to all but one of South Carolina's three automobile manufacturing facilities. The exception being the BMW plant near Greer, which is the largest.
These decisions, as well as other major manufacturing industry announcements, have placed South Carolina in an interesting position. There are now discussions about which part of the state will play the biggest role in manufacturing, a dilemma not many other states have.
The discussion is broken down to two sectors of the state, Upstate and the Lowcountry. Both of which have seen boosts to their economies after success in manufacturing.
"South Carolina manufacturing is now bi-polar: the Upstate and the Lowcountry," said Frank Hefner, an economist at the College of Charleston to Greenville News. "I wouldn't claim either one is the center."
Weighing the manufacturing scale
When you look solely as statistics, the Upstate region of South Carolina has a considerable advantage over the lower section of the state. After looking through data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Greenville News reported that Upstate South Carolina claimed 67,839 manufacturing jobs in the third quarter of 2014 in three counties, Greenville, Spartanburg and Anderson; that's compared to 24,650 in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties, which is considered the Lowcountry.
Data also shows there are 1,348 manufacturing establishments in three Upstate counties compared to 570 in three from Lowcountry.
While the Lowcountry has made great strides to close the gap between itself and Upstate manufacturing, Upstate has been adding jobs to the manufacturing industry ever since the end of the Great Recession. And the fact that the industry is now prospering in Lowcountry means that it may increase even more in Upstate. Especially if manufacturing establishments that currently exist in Upstate establish relationships with Volvo or Mercedes-Benz Vans. It could help both parties and give Upstate counties even more of a lead than they already have.
South Carolina coming out on top
With both regions of the state thriving due to recent moves, the real winner in the end isn't Upstate of Lowcountry- it's the entire state of South Carolina.
"Boeing, Mercedes, Volvo all involve major manufacturing operations, and the ripple effects of their activities will stretch far across the state," said Sujit CanagaRetna, fiscal policy manager for the Council of State Governments in Atlanta, to Greenville News. CanagaRetna studies the automobile industry in the Southeastern region of the U.S.
Perhaps the most relieved person in the state of South Carolina to see the deal go through is Gov. Nikki Haley, who was deeply involved in negotiations with Volvo to make the factory construction a reality, according to The State, a South Carolina publication. There were multiple moments where the deal could've fizzled out and the factory could've ended up somewhere else, namely Georgia. The governor even told The State that negotiations were similar to a roller coaster.
Now that South Carolina's landed the first Volvo plant on U.S. soil, the entire state can work to make sure that everyone grows from the addition to the local economy.