A New Frontier For Investment In South Carolina

South Carolina's North Eastern Strategic Alliance region attracted more than $850 million in investments in 2017, projects that will create more than 2,200 new jobs.

By the BF Staff
From the January/February 2018 Issue

Companies that are serious about achieving new levels of productivity and profitability increasingly are considering the North Eastern Strategic Alliance (NESA) Region for their next major investment. When one thinks of locating a manufacturing plant in South Carolina, the major metro markets of Greenville, Columbia, and the port city of Charleston immediately come to mind. Those markets have boomed for the last few decades and made the Palmetto State a nationally renowned destination for domestic and international manufacturing investments.

South Carolina
The Domtar Paper Co. employs nearly 700 workers at its facility in Fort
Mill, SC, one of three mills the company operates in the Palmetto State.

It took many years for those areas to prepare themselves in terms of workforce and infrastructure so that they could win the major projects that are repeatedly lauded in this and other publications. The NESA Region is ready to win and is already seeing some success with 2017 being the best year in nearly a decade with more than 2,200 jobs and more than $850 million in new capital investment announced. Early indications are that even more is coming in 2018. There has never been a better time to join countless other astute companies in exploring the NESA Region, a new frontier for investment in South Carolina.

NESA’s regional labor pool, which is comprised of a one-hour drive time from the center of the region, has  an existing workforce of around one million people including 63,000 manufacturing employees, a concentration of manufacturing workers that is 23 percent higher than the national average. This workforce produces products ranging from food and beverage products to all-terrain vehicles, medical devices, pharmaceuticals and aerospace components. There is very little that we can’t make here in the region.   

Aside from an already robust manufacturing workforce, the region is home to a comprehensive manufacturing training facility, the Southeastern Institute for Manufacturing and Technology (SiMT), which specializes in 3D printing, rapid prototyping, advanced machining, and a variety of credit and non-credit certificate and degree programs. SiMT has worked with major manufacturing companies including Honda, General Electric Healthcare, Wyman Gordon and others on various product and workforce development efforts.   

In addition to the resources provided by SiMT, the region is also home to several other colleges and universities that provide area businesses with a pipeline of skilled employees. The major differentiator between what we have versus what is available in other locations is the degree of collaboration which exists between the colleges and universities and businesses. One example of this is Francis Marion University’s industrial engineering program which was developed as a result of the need expressed by area manufacturers. Our educational institutions are dedicated to listening to the needs of our region’s employers and making sure that they have academic and other training programs to produce the workforce that is required.   

Being located within a day’s drive of around half of the U.S. population, having two interstates and a third one planned, two commercial airports, and the largest railyard in the state, what more could our region need to make it the premier logistics hub on the East Coast? The answer is a port facility and we will complete that piece of infrastructure around March 2018. Inland Port Dillon will be operated by the South Carolina Ports Authority with rail service provided by CSX and will significantly reduce the time and costs associated with moving containers from ocean liners to the I-95 corridor. With import driven anchor tenants already in place, we are aggressively seeking manufacturing companies with an export business that need a low-cost location from which to ship finished goods, forestry or agricultural products.   

What we are offering is the advantage of being located at or near a port facility but at a much lower cost of entry and in a much less congested and much less expensive operating cost environment. Based on published real estate listings, we have determined that companies could save 75% or more on their real estate acquisition costs by locating near Inland Port Dillon versus locating in a major port market.   

The communities and utility companies of our region have invested hundreds of millions of dollars over the last several years in developing modern and robust infrastructure to meet the needs of major manufacturing facilities. With that, we have modern regional water and wastewater systems with millions of gallons of excess capacity, new electrical substations and infrastructure, upgraded highways and roadways to accommodate additional traffic, expanded and improved airport facilities, and massive investments in workforce development facilities and programs. From an infrastructure perspective, there are few regions of the country that have as many of the infrastructure items in place and ready for major manufacturing facilities as the NESA Region.

Whether it is a metal fabrication facility, a food processing plant, or an assembly facility, the region has the infrastructure to handle it.

If you are ready to take your company to new heights of productivity and profitability and are tired of futilely searching the same old high cost locations along the East Coast, we encourage you to visit the NESA Region.  [The NESA section was written by Ronald Carter.]


A progressive economic leader in South Carolina, Greenwood County provides unique investment opportunities and exceptional quality of life. Greenwood boasts a modern and diverse economic base, from Fujifilm’s North American manufacturing, distribution and research and development headquarters to nationally recognized genetics research at the Greenwood Genetic Center. Educational institutions, such as Lander University and Piedmont Technical College, provide a pipeline to the future with quality training in engineering, industrial technology, business, and health.

South Carolina
The 512-acre Greenwood East Rail Park has ample space available for
industrial use and offers on-site utilities and direct rail access to the ports
of Charleston and Savannah.

Towards the end of 2016, Teijin, a Japanese chemical, pharmaceutical and information technology company, announced it will be constructing a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Greenwood County. Creating 220 new jobs, the project is expected to bring $600 million in new capital investment to Greenwood County—the largest initial capital investment by a company in the county’s history.

Earlier successes in Greenwood County have included Colgate Palmolive’s $196-million production facility, which was built in 2014 in an existing 525,000 square-foot-building, creating 300 new jobs; Colombo Energy also completed a $110-million pellet-manufacturing plant in Greenwood, SC in 2016, creating 70 new jobs.

The Greenwood East Rail Park is a 512-acre Greenfield rail served industrial park available in Greenwood County, South Carolina. Located in one of Greenwood’s major industrial corridors, the Greenwood East Rail Park is perfectly situated for large-scale manufacturing operations. This park has several beneficial features including on-site utilities and direct rail access to the ports of Charleston and Savannah.

The Greenwood County North Industrial Park (GCNIP) is a 141-acre SC Certified industrial park available for purchase in Hodges, SC. It has multiple lots allowing for phased development, all utilities on site (gas can be extended from across the highway), is county-owned, on a US four-lane highway, 40 minutes from I-26, 40 minutes to I-85, and 34 minutes to I-385.

Greenwood County boasts a modern and diverse economic base, from Fujifilm’s North American manufacturing, distribution, and research and development headquarters to nationally recognized genetics research at the Greenwood Genetic Center. Approximately 26% of the local workforce is dedicated to manufacturing. With a population of 326,000 within a 60-minute drive of Greenwood, SC we have a large labor shed to pull from for manufacturing.

Greenwood County is within 25 miles of both Interstates I-26 and I-385, with direct access to four-lane highways. Access to I-85 is 45 miles northeast of the County, while I-77 is located 80 miles eastward. Two four-lane, US highways traverse the County. US Highway 25 has long provided the most direct north-south access from Greenville and Augusta. The US Highway 72 corridor provides vital east-west access linking Greenwood County to US Interstate 26 to the east and the State of Georgia.

The overall cost of living index in Greenwood, SC, is 83, which is 13% lower than the South Carolina average and 17% lower than the national average. The cost of living index is created from the following categories: goods/services (33 percent), groceries (13 percent), health care (5 percent), housing (30 percent), transportation (9 percent) and utilities (10 percent). Everyday goods and services can be a good indicator of the general cost of goods in a given city. In this case, the goods and services in Greenwood, SC, are 7 percent lower than the South Carolina average and 6 percent lower than the national average.

Educational opportunities are easily accessible in Greenwood, with three fully accredited school districts, five private schools, two colleges which provide a wide range of educational opportunities. The Partnership Alliance and the Foundation, as well as many other community and philanthropic organizations, continually support the pursuit of adult education and the training that sets our workforce apart from the ordinary.

Greenwood serves as a regional hub for healthcare services and is home to some of the top-ranked healthcare facilities in the country. With 314 physicians per 100,000 population in Greenwood, compared to the national average of 261, Greenwood has no shortage of doctors and expertise to meet the needs of the community.

Identifying, Informing Growth Partners for the Corridor and for the Future

A pair of year-end announcements—one from a traditional manufacturer, the other from a high-tech services provider—exemplify the kind of year 2017 was for the four counties that form the South Carolina I-77 Alliance, and for future economic development in the 90-mile corridor from Columbia to Charlotte.

Stanley Black & Decker is building a 345,000-square-foot facility that will produce DEWALT cordless power tools and create 500 jobs in a modern office and industrial park in Fort Mill near the state line. In the capital city, Capgemini’s new global insurance technologies delivery center now employs 125 people in the BullStreet District, a massive urban redevelopment project near downtown Columbia.

South CarolinaThey’re not the only economic development headlines of the year, nor even the largest. Giti Tire Group has just opened its $560 million Chester County plant. The 1.7 million-square-foot site is expected to produce several hundred thousand passenger tires and employ 1,000 people by the end of 2018, and Wal-Mart has signed on as its headline distributor.

Small but mighty, meanwhile, is the news that GE Aviation and Allegheny Technologies Inc. are building a research and development facility for jet engine and 3D-printed aerospace products, also in Chester County, creating 29 jobs and lots of possibilities.

Major commitments by these global players in traditional manufacturing and high-tech services speak to the diverse opportunities available in the I-77 Corridor.

Here to Help. “The new delivery center is designed to operate in the new world of DevOps and the distributed Agile model.” That’s what Capgemini says of its new center in Columbia.

Agility is also what the S.C. I-77 Alliance brings to the table. Launched in 2015, we’re a nonprofit, public-private regional partnership that seeks to identify new industrial prospects and show them why they should come here.

We don’t manage projects. We offer strategic planning, workforce assessment, research services and data platforms to developers and industrial prospects.

We target our outreach to growing enterprises domestic and international that look like a good fit. We and our four county development agencies work with other private and public experts in economic development, including at the S.C. Department of Commerce and the other seven regional groups like us across the state.

We built out those services this year. We’ve grown more active on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and we’ve launched an all-new web presence and digital dashboards that help make plain the access to transportation, including major airline hubs and seaports, and most importantly, an educated, motivated workforce enjoying high quality of life and low cost of living compared to much of America.

We reflect the business climate of the I-77 region, agile and proactive, working together to drive sustained success.

Educated Co-Opetition. Co-opetition—cooperation among competitors toward shared objectives –shows in the corridor’s success in meeting one of the biggest challenges facing job growers everywhere: finding people to successfully fill those jobs.

Competition is fierce nationwide. An available workforce both homegrown and willing to move for those good jobs is critical to industrial recruitment, and co-opetition has helped make that happen in our four counties.

That begins with education. New and existing employers regularly turn to the Palmetto State’s technical college system, long nationally known for its agility in identifying and training workers who can meet each company’s specific needs.

Helping jump-start an educated workforce early is a goal, too. For example, Rock Hill-based York Technical College recently partnered with Rock Hill educators to create a dual-credit program in one of the corridor’s largest school districts.

The corridor’s four-year schools take an active role, too. The University of South Carolina, in fact, provides the tech incubator that hosted the two-person startup that became Capgemini’s new global insurance center in Columbia.

By working together over the years, educators and employers, community leaders and government officials alike have created an ecosystem that empowers economic opportunity for people who know how to show up on time, learn how to do their jobs, and then spend a career doing them well.

All Economies Are Local. The I-77 Corridor has leveraged its advantages for outsized growth during steady, moderate expansion the nation and much of the industrialized world has seen for the past decade.

Diversification has been a big part of our success, capitalizing on core industries such as automotive and aerospace and building on our textiles heritage with advanced materials makers choosing to locate or expand here. Advanced wood products, pharmaceutical producers, chemicals, energy production, and even the only television factory in the country add to the mix.

We’re not saying that the corridor is immune to the forces that shift and change the global economy. But our diversity adds resilience to weather any downturns to come. Our logistics are in place to serve existing companies and newcomers. Our people are educated, motivated and ready to work.

In 2018 we’ll be forging new partnerships with power players like power companies and law firms that specialize in economic development, and similar stakeholders who can help us continue building on the synergy that’s flourishing from Charlotte to Columbia.

We’ll also be exploring some Asian and Western Europe markets that we previously haven’t mined for recruitment prospects, while continuing to build on our alliances with major international market leaders already well-established in South Carolina.

The Alliance will be strengthening our marketing partnerships with other economic development groups in South Carolina and we’ll also continue targeting domestic producers as candidates for capital investment and expansion in the I-77 Corridor.

We’ll continue to build on these fundamentals while fine-tuning our strategies to identify and target opportunities as they emerge.