We lead off our 2019 series of monthly blogs with our confidence that the five counties served by the South Carolina I-77 Alliance will see another strong year of industrial and business announcements and growth.
At the Alliance itself, we’ll also continue to build out our ability to effectively market the I-77 corridor to domestic and international prospects, and our ability to quantify results and our value to the stakeholders who invest in and trust us as their economic development partners.
Recap of 2018
First, let’s recap the year just past. The Alliance is happy to report that we now have a fifth member. Fast-growing Lancaster County signed on in 2018, joining York, Chester, Fairfield and Richland counties. It’s a natural fit geographically, demographically, culturally, and in every business sense. We’re thrilled to have them aboard.
We also had another good turnout for our fourth annual economic summit at our Gateway Conference Center alongside I-77 near Richburg in Chester County, where a key topic included a look at what we expect will soon be a game-changer for Fairfield County and the surrounding region.
That would be the creation of the I-77 International Megasite, a 1,500-acre property about 20 miles north of Columbia and 60 miles south of Charlotte that is now ready for marketing as the home for a major player such as an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) in the automotive sector.
An announcement like that would build on the success reported in 2018 by the S.C. Department of Commerce in the five-county corridor. The department reports 17 announcements totaling $275.3 million in pledged investments and 3,838 new jobs in York, Lancaster, Chester, Fairfield and Richland counties.
There’s strength in diversity, thus it’s encouraging to note that these announcements were from small, closely held firms and major multinationals alike, and across a range of verticals: four were in business and financial services, two were automotive equipment manufacturers, three were advanced materials manufacturers, and eight were advanced manufacturers.
Some specifics show that range. Consider QEMS Inc. opening a 110,000-square-foot facility in York County that will employ 110 people in the design and manufacture of customized circuit board assemblies and electronic systems.
In Chester County, Carolina Poly Inc. expects to create 75 new jobs as it expands its production of polyethylene film for uses that range from trash bags to shrink wraps.
Then there’s Healthcare US Co.’s plans to this month begin producing memory-foam mattresses in the former Mack Truck assembly plant in Fairfield County, creating 250 new jobs. Their parent company, Healthcare Co., Ltd., is China’s largest publicly-traded memory-foam mattress manufacturer. This announcement confirms that our region has the attributes and resources to compete globally for tract foreign direct investment (FDI).
In Richland County, Owens Corning just announced plans to create a glass non-wovens center of excellence, putting 16 people to work developing solutions that support the Ohio-based company’s operations in 37 countries (including four sites already in operation across South Carolina).
Last but not least, ServiceMac plans to create 1,000 new jobs over the next five years at its new mortgage sub-servicing operation in Lancaster County.
Our Goals and Vision for 2019
In 2019, we plan to double down on our efforts to attract more employers and more investment to the I-77 corridor. That will include executing on our own strategic plan, highlights of which include tripling the number of our self-generated marketing missions to prospects and industrial shows around the country and the world.
That’s atop the trips we already make in concert with other stakeholders, such as the SC Department of Commerce, as this will require further strengthening our relationships with our partners and more deeply engaging them in our joint marketing efforts. To show them the value of this engagement, we’re also bolstering our reporting, with expanded use of accountability charts, metrics, and scorecards.
We also plan to bolster the value we provide our partners with more robust use of marketing videos and printed collateral and the continued development of our research services and data platforms.
The South Carolina I-77 Alliance will continue to work hard to solidify our role as the go-to source for site availability, regional workforce data, and all you need to know about the I-77 corridor in South Carolina, especially for local developers or corporate executives or any other stakeholder interested in building a future together here in our dynamic five-county region