One of the most significant South Carolina news items of the last few years was that Volvo Cars selected a site near Ridgeville in Berkeley County for its first plant in the western hemisphere.  The Chinese-owned Swedish car manufacturer has been exporting cars to the United States since 1956 and finally decided to build it’s first manufacturing plant here which is expected to roll out the first of many Volvo S60 sedans starting in 2018.  The factory broke ground in September of 2015 and construction has been steady as the road and rail infrastructure goes in at the old Camp Hall timber plantation off Interstate 26 near Ridgeville, SC.  The 2,881-acre site is conveniently located about 30 miles from the international Port of Charleston and 40 miles northwest of downtown Charleston.

At full bore, the $500 million plant is expected to produce 100,000 cars a year, half of which will be headed a to the International Port of Charleston. From there they will be loaded onto auto-freightliners and exported abroad. According to a recent interview with Bloomberg News, Volvo chose to build in South Carolina over another site in Mexico because they felt strongly about locating their first overseas plant within their most important market – the United States.

The plant will initially take on two thousand new workers, with an additionally two thousand being added over time.  Due to the size of the factory, many more jobs will be created by manufacturing related companies that will feed the Volvo supply chain.  A good example is Kion North America which is an industrial truck manufacturer that will supply material-handling equipment to the new Volvo factory which is only five miles away from Kion’s own headquarters.

From the Charleston Regional Business Journal

Kion will supply and service a fleet that includes forklifts, reach trucks and very narrow aisle trucks, according to a news release. The majority of the fleet is rechargeable, lithium-ion battery-powered equipment. The agreement value was not disclosed.

Michael Perkins (left), senior purchasing manager for Volvo Car U.S. Operations Inc., and Vincent Halma, president and CEO of Kion North America, sign the agreement. (Photo/Provided)

“This agreement is monumental,” Mike Gore, vice president of sales at Kion North America, said in the release. “Not only are two global premium manufacturers teaming up, but more importantly two South Carolina businesses, further validating the state’s position as a manufacturing giant.”

Kion underwent a $3 million facility expansion last year, increasing its production capacity from 3,000 units per year in 2015 to 12,000 units by 2020. The company plans to add 50 jobs in the next three to five years, the release said.

Another residual effect of the new plant is housing. Summerville, Ridgeville and Moncks Corner were already building out at a fairly decent clip, but the impact of the Volvo plant has spurred even more growth in housing.  New communities are springing up further and further west of the Summerville area, and once depressed land prices have steadily risen.

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