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1,500 jobs coming to Chester County?

By Don Worthington
dworthington@heraldonline.com

CHESTER Chester County is negotiating a “game-changing” economic deal with a company that could invest up to $560 million and create 1,500 jobs, according to county officials.

If finalized, the investment and job creation would be the largest in the county in at least 30 years and bigger than most recent projects in York or Lancaster counties.

“We’ve never had an industrial prospect this big in the 32 years I’ve been county administrator,” said Chester County supervisor Carlisle Roddey. “This will change the landscape of Chester County.”

The announcement means Chester County residents “will have a chance to compete for great-paying jobs,” Roddey said.

Few details of the project have been released. Roddey and state Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, confirmed it would be a manufacturing plant.

The location of the site was not released.

Jim Fuller, president of the Chester County Chamber of Commerce, said there are about four sites in the county capable of handing a project this large, including the county’s 1,438 acre “mega site” off Interstate 77.

Norman said the company is compatible with other industries in the region.

Roddey said the company fits into the state’s vision turn to I-77 between Columbia and Rock Hill into a manufacturing corridor.

State and local officials have been working on this project for more than a year, said Karlisa Parker, Chester County economic development official.

Red Ventures, the Indian Land-based Internet sales and marketing firm, is the only company in the region with a comparable announcement in recent years. Last year, Red Ventures announced a $46 million expansion that is expected to create 1,000 jobs over the next five years.

In 2013, the investment in economic development projects in Chester, Lancaster and York counties totaled $750 million. It is expected that over time the projects will create as many as 5,000 jobs, according to data from economic development offices in the three counties.

The Chester County Council gave initial approval Monday to an ordinance that would create a fee-in-lieu-of tax arrangement as well as a special source revenue credit. Both actions would reduce the company’s tax liability.

The name of the company was not released and the ordinance refers to the project by the code name “Summer.”

The county council must approve the ordinance twice more before it is enacted. A second reading of the ordinance is expected May 19 with a final reading, if all goes according to schedule, on June 2. The county hopes to release the company’s name at the third reading, but that will be determined by the company, not the county, officials said.

If finalized, the additional jobs are expected to have a regional impact, potentially dropping unemployment rates that are among the highest in the state.

Chester County’s 7.4 percent unemployment rate is 11th-highest in South Carolina out of 46 counties. Lancaster County’s 6.3 percent unemployment rate is 25th in the state, while York County’s rate is 6.7 percent, 16th in the state.

Roddey predicted Chester County’s rate could drop to among the lowest if the project goes through.

Unemployment rates have been dropping in each of the counties recently. They are expected to continue to fall as more economic development projects are finalized. Projects under way include JN Fibers in Chester County, a $45 million investment that should create 300 jobs, and Keer Group in Lancaster County, a $218 million investment that should create 500 jobs.

The JN Fibers plant will take soda and water bottles and spin them into polyester fibers. The Keer plant will make cotton yarn.

The proposed manufacturing plant in Chester County should result in “spin-off” employment, said Wells Fargo economist Mark Vitner, who studies the region.

Vitner said between 150 to 200 jobs could be created by related businesses, depending on what type of manufacturing is done.

Don Worthington 803-329-4066

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