By now, just about everyone on the planet has heard that Volvo Cars is coming to South Carolina, but news this good is worth repeating.
Gov. Nikki Haley announced last month that Volvo will build its first U.S. assembly plant in Berkeley County. Construction is scheduled to begin this fall, and the project represents a $500 million investment in the Palmetto State economy. When production begins in 2018, the plant will create 2,000 new jobs initially, and as many as 4,000 new jobs by 2030—figures that don’t include the additional jobs and economic opportunities that will be created by suppliers and support industries. Any way you slice it, Volvo’s decision to build cars in South Carolina is a big win for the state’s economy.
You might be surprised to learn that South Carolina’s not-for-profit electric cooperatives played an important role in closing the deal. Large manufacturing plants run on electricity, and as the operators of the state’s largest utility network—70,000 miles of line serving more than 70 percent of the state’s landmass—we showed Volvo executives that they had reliable partners who wanted the company to succeed in the Palmetto State. The plant will be served by Edisto Electric Cooperative, and neighboring support facilities will be served by Berkeley Electric Cooperative.
For nearly three decades, co-ops have been recruiting new industry to South Carolina through the S.C. Power Team, a business-development partnership with Santee Cooper, the state-owned utility. Since 1988, the Power Team has brought more than $11 billion in capital investments and 63,000 jobs to our state by helping companies find suitable industrial sites with the utility infrastructure they need to grow and prosper.
While the Volvo deal is getting all the press, it’s only the latest in a string of wins for the Power Team, says James Chavez, president and CEO.
In the first five months of this year, the organization landed 15 other projects that will bring capital investments of more than $661 million and the potential for 1,645 new jobs to co-op-served communities across the state. Now that we can add Volvo to the roster, the 2015 scorecard for capital investment stands at $1.16 billion (yes, billion)—and the year isn’t even half over.
Even better: All of these new projects are coming on the heels of a banner 2014 that saw $923.6 million in new capital investments and 8,381 new jobs announced for the Palmetto State as a result of the Power Team’s work. “We’re just getting started,” Chavez says. “There is so much opportunity out there.”
It might seem odd to some that cooperatives serving rural and suburban South Carolina are heavy hitters in economic development, but it’s an example of our commitment to the communities we serve. Providing affordable and reliable power is our daily work, but helping our friends and neighbors live better lives is our real purpose, and it’s been that way since the first S.C. electric co-ops were formed in the 1930s.
By virtue of our not-for-profit structure, our ethic of service to community and the strength of our statewide network, South Carolina’s electric cooperatives are uniquely positioned to help grow our economy by supporting job creation. Attracting new industry creates a wave of economic benefits that extend far beyond the new paychecks generated every two weeks. More money spent in local economies spurs new business opportunities and supports the local tax bases that fund our public schools.
The ripple effects of all this new industry will benefit South Carolina for generations to come, and we’re proud to have played a part in making it happen.
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