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krazeeboi

Large-scale manufacturing in the Midlands

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Daimler announced this week that they will be expanding their plant in the Charleston area which will result in 1200 new jobs. Now there are talks of a possible Volvo plant eyeing SC, with the Charleston area being the frontrunner once again. And of course, there's BMW in the Upstate. What can Columbia, or another Midlands city, do to snag a major manufacturing development, the kinds that result in spinoff (e.g., automotive)? Is the area not being considered due to lack of available land, or is it something else? The tire plants are definitely good for the region, but they don't result in as much spinoff.

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I don't think it's just the Midlands, I don't see the Upstate getting any more large scale developments either. The mega ships are really a game changer- they make locating near a port even more attractive. Smaller domestic manufacturers will probably not see a huge benefit, but foreign heavy manufacturers will want to minimize travel time for parts, or in Mercedes' case, (almost) fully assembled vehicles. I think Charleston and Savannah are about to go into manufacturing overdrive.

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I think there are many reasons why Columbia does not have a large manufacturing operation............a suitable site, no history as a manufacturing center, and politics.  Out of the big three metros, Columbia is the least favorite of politicians and that is part of development. 

 

Unfortunately, I think Columbia will have to grow from within by growing a company or attracting a company with ties to Carolina.  I just don't see any government official in SC at either the state or federal level caring too much about Columbia. 

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I think there are many reasons why Columbia does not have a large manufacturing operation............a suitable site, no history as a manufacturing center, and politics. Out of the big three metros, Columbia is the least favorite of politicians and that is part of development.

Unfortunately, I think Columbia will have to grow from within by growing a company or attracting a company with ties to Carolina. I just don't see any government official in SC at either the state or federal level caring too much about Columbia.

It's too easy to pass that off on politicians. Columbia is Nikki's home turf and home to a very conservative voting base in Lexington County.

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It's too easy to pass that off on politicians. Columbia is Nikki's home turf and home to a very conservative voting base in Lexington County.

 

Actually, development is very political, especially in SC.  Metro Columbia is the most moderate of the big three. 

 

As for Columbia, the city has all of the ingredients that are necessary for a strong growing economy.......a major international research university, a well educated workforce, good infrastructure, access to ports in Charleston, access to a major airport in Charlotte, a good arts environment, culture etc....When you draw up a list of requirements for new projects, Columbia checks the boxes.

 

And, it is not coincidence that the seeds of Boeing were planted with a Charleston Governor and BMW was attracted by a Greenville Governor. 

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And, it is not coincidence that the seeds of Boeing were planted with a Charleston Governor and BMW was attracted by a Greenville Governor. 

mulder-and-i-want-to-believe-poster.jpg

 

*note: next time don't hit them with that "actually"

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The only county in the Midlands that would be competitive for a large manufacturer would be Lexington.  Richland taxes are probably too high and the other counties like Newberry, Fairfield, etc. have too small of a population base. I think the grow your own strategy works best for Cola. 

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The only county in the Midlands that would be competitive for a large manufacturer would be Lexington.  Richland taxes are probably too high and the other counties like Newberry, Fairfield, etc. have too small of a population base. I think the grow your own strategy works best for Cola. 

 

Western Lexington County has plenty of land, access to I-20, and I'm sure a site large enough could be found that would be suitable for a large-scale manufacturing operation. 

 

The issue with this whole deal is that SC is putting literally all of its eco-devo focus on manufacturing, so it's a bit unfair for areas without a large manufacturing base to have to go it alone with little help from the state--despite the fact that what separates Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh/Durham, Nashville, the Texas metros, etc. from the others is a substantial base of knowledge-based, white-collar jobs and those are the kind that SC should also be going after, apart from luring companies across the state line from Charlotte. But alas, this would also require major investments in education across the board and SC just isn't having that.

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And you are spot on krazeeboi. It's either low wage distribution or relatively high wage manufacturing. But it don't take a lot of knowledge to fill these jobs. Yes there is a little training involved but that's it. SC have to do a better job at education. And when we have another lull in the economy, and it will happen just look at history, we will be talking about this again. Places that have a highly educated workforce will be fine.

That's why I would like to see our state diversify our approach to the job recruitment more. Yeah if the plants want to come. Let them. But not on our dime. Lets use that money on more productive things.

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USC realized a decade ago that it would have to generate its own momentum, hence Innovista. A USC VP once explained to me that the school finally decided it would not rely on the state for solutions; rather, it would leverage its existing relationships with large companies to anchor them near campus. The Fluor-IBM partnership was low-hanging fruit as Fluor is run by a USC grad (who also happens to be the Chair of Carolina's Promise) and IBM gladly took a $70M IT contract in exchange for moving its Columbia office and starting a small research center. There is a grouping effect that happens over time (think Research Triangle Park or Austin). USC just has to reach a tipping point for momentum to kick in. Charleston is heading in that direction with foreign-based manufactuing. At any rate, Nikki seems far more interesting in huge wins (Boeing) and easy wins (Charlotte -> Fort Mill/Rock Hill) than the economic development that takes more time to develop. We've seen a few deals announced in rural areas (Giti in Chester County, Continental Tires in Sumter), but I would not expect much for Columbia/Lexington during her administration.

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Richland County is looking hard at making concessions on its taxes for companies to locate here. I don't know what the latest is on that. The penny sales tax will result in Shop Road being extended, which will open up about 900 acres for development.

 

I believe state politicians think of Columbia as nothing more than the place they meet to make laws. They use the name of the city in vain as they discuss what's wrong with government, always talking about what's wrong with Columbia when they mean what's wrong with state policies.

 

Even if Lexington County got a big-fish manufacturer that was a major game-changer for this region in that industry, all you would hear about is how Lexington County is the place the manufacturers now want to be. You wouldn't hear about Columbia being where they want to be, even though in the bigger picture, they would have located in the 'Columbia region' because of Columbia, not because of Lexington. When we hear about BMW, we hear about Greenville, not Spartanburg County, other than an occasional plug from a Spartanburg County councilman or someone similar.  

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Y'all bring up some good points.....the state in general is very concentrated on big number announcements.  There is nothing wrong with that but the wages growth in neighboring states is so much greater than in SC.  SC should go after job announcements like you saw with MetLife........Raleigh and Charlotte each got close to 2,000 MetLife jobs that were IT related, financial, actuaries etc....average wages were in the $70k+ range.  It is hard for SC to compete for these positions partly due to the lack of investment in education and reputation for being a manufacturing base.  There is nothing wrong with manufacturing but you don't want to spend your life competing with Mexico for jobs, that is not a way to improve the standard of living.

 

For Columbia, I think the city/county/chamber/econ development officials need to be creative in attracting industry even to the point of reaching out to companies outside of the normal state procedures.  It may benefit the area to hire consultants to sell the area directly to companies that are seeking locations in SC.  It is obvious that the state has little interest in seeing Columbia grow.

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Maybe the IBM-Fluor-USC partnership at USC will pay big dividends in the form of keeping more brain power in Columbia and adding high-paying IT jobs.

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Maybe the IBM-Fluor-USC partnership at USC will pay big dividends in the form of keeping more brain power in Columbia and adding high-paying IT jobs.

I hope so......Fluor may bring more jobs to the city as well. I am surprised that ground breaking did not get more attention. This is a good project and the type of jobs needed in SC. I know some already existed but more will be added. So, outside of Fort Mill, Columbia has the largest office building under construction in the state.....is that correct? The Greenville News would have 5 Tories about that.

I would like to see more manufacturing in Columbia. It would add more balance to the economy.

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Maybe the IBM-Fluor-USC partnership at USC will pay big dividends in the form of keeping more brain power in Columbia and adding high-paying IT jobs.

 

Fluor may be bringing more jobs, but the truth is most of the IBM jobs (at the moment anyway) were either existing employees or are transferring over from USC IT department. The benefit is not really the job numbers, it is the brand names. If USC can replicate this same method with other companies (probably those holding the biggest contracts), Columbia can sell the area as a rising high tech zone.

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The issue is that there's really only so much Columbia can do on its own, especially without a big business name associated with the city a la Hugh McColl in Charlotte or Arthur Blank in Atlanta.

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Fluor may be bringing more jobs, but the truth is most of the IBM jobs (at the moment anyway) were either existing employees or are transferring over from USC IT department. The benefit is not really the job numbers, it is the brand names. If USC can replicate this same method with other companies (probably those holding the biggest contracts), Columbia can sell the area as a rising high tech zone.

You are dead on with this...........Carolina can and should market this as a rising park for high tech and collaboration. IBM and Fluor are great names to market in attracting other companies.   Carolina has a lot of grads across the country in executive positions.  The university should be calling on these groups to establish offices at Carolina.  Carolina has a strong Risk program, it could attract some groups like Merrill Lynch and others to establish operations centers in the city which will also collaborate with Carolina. 

 

I would like to see the city reach out directly to site selection consultants and start building direct relationships with these groups.  A lot of times, the only thing site selection consultants see is what Bobby Hitt's group will provide.  By reaching out to these groups directly, the city can change the narrative of what the city has. 

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You are dead on with this...........Carolina can and should market this as a rising park for high tech and collaboration. IBM and Fluor are great names to market in attracting other companies.   Carolina has a lot of grads across the country in executive positions.  The university should be calling on these groups to establish offices at Carolina.  Carolina has a strong Risk program, it could attract some groups like Merrill Lynch and others to establish operations centers in the city which will also collaborate with Carolina. 

 

I would like to see the city reach out directly to site selection consultants and start building direct relationships with these groups.  A lot of times, the only thing site selection consultants see is what Bobby Hitt's group will provide.  By reaching out to these groups directly, the city can change the narrative of what the city has. 

 

Charlotte has had great success drawing back office functions (i.e. accounting, customer service, operations) from New York. I think this is a replicable model for Columbia, maybe not for banks since they prefer dense urban centers and lots of amenities, but perhaps for Fortune 500 or 1000 companies that want a cost savings from more expensive urban headquarters.

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Charlotte has had great success drawing back office functions (i.e. accounting, customer service, operations) from New York. I think this is a replicable model for Columbia, maybe not for banks since they prefer dense urban centers and lots of amenities, but perhaps for Fortune 500 or 1000 companies that want a cost savings from more expensive urban headquarters.

It would be a smart move for Columbia to go after back office functions, I think the city would do very well in this area.

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