Companies tout Charlotte in locating in SC

Tire maker announces new SC plant; 2 other companies say they're moving from Charlotte, NC

Associated Press

FORT MILL, S.C. (AP) -- A common draw for three companies announcing a combined 7,100 jobs along South Carolina's Interstate 77 corridor is the state's northern neighbor.

Three companies announced plans Monday to invest a total of $800 million over the next decade. It's thought to be the most new jobs announced in a single day in South Carolina. The total investment over a decade is expected to be $800 million.

Gov. Nikki Haley called the back-to-back-to-back news conferences the "ultimate hat trick."

"If you look at all three announcements, they're all three completely different, but they're all three such solid, well quality companies that are really investing in our workforce and giving us the opportunity to show what we can do," Haley said. "It is the reason they are calling us the beast of the Southeast."

Charlotte, North Carolina, helped lure the three dissimilar companies.

As Charlotte continues to grow, South Carolina has an opportunity to draw that growth southward, said Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt.

"This is the Charlotte region you're looking at," he said at the Fort Mill Golf Club.

John McDermott, the University of South Carolina's economics department chairman, noted that Charlotte is considered the region's banking and finance center.

So the draw could be "being near Charlotte on the one hand and taking advantage of South Carolina taxes and regulation on the other," he said.

York County Council Chairman Britt Blackwell said the projects build momentum in marketing and transforming the region between Charlotte and Columbia.

They consist of one manufacturing plant and two office campuses.

Singapore-based Giti Tire is building its first North American plant in rural Chester County, creating 1,700 new jobs over the next decade. The 1.8 million square-foot manufacturing and distribution facility in Richburg, expected to cost $560 million, will make passenger and light truck tires.

The plant's initial capacity is expected to be five million tires annually.

Lei Huai Chin, managing director of Giti Tire Group, said the location — 40 miles south of downtown Charlotte — was picked partly because of its access to the interstate, rail, airports and a major metropolitan area that can support the company's needs and growth.

Hitt said the announcement bolsters South Carolina's reputation as the nation's tire capital. Michelin, Bridgestone, Continental and Trelleborg also have announced new or expanded facilities in the past few years.

The other two companies, Lash Group and LPL Financial, are moving jobs from several Charlotte locations to new, expanded campuses just minutes south in Fort Mill.

Lash Group, which provides patient support services, is moving its corporate headquarters 7 miles south, and expects to employ 2,400 people by 2021. About half of them will be new hires, said President Tracy Foster.

The company plans to spend a total of $90 million on what Foster called the company's "dream home," with the first phase costing $57 million. Meanwhile, it will maintain office space in Charlotte for about 600 workers through 2019, Foster said.

But she doesn't consider the relocation a move from Charlotte. Instead, she said, the site allows the company to stay in the region and tap into its highly skilled workforce, while growing on a single campus.

"This decision was to stay in the Charlotte region," Foster said. "We love this region. It's a great place to work. It's a great place to live."

LPL Financial, the nation's largest independent broker, is moving its regional headquarters to Fort Mill. It plans to spend $150 million over the next eight years on a campus where 3,000 people will eventually be employed. About 1,000 of those jobs will transfer from its existing Charlotte offices, said Mark Casady, the company's chairman and CEO.

LPL's release on the announcement notes the company picked the "Charlotte area" as its primary destination for job growth.

The state is spending about $42 million on improving infrastructure at the three locations. The bulk of that, or $37.8 million, will go toward preparing the 1,200 acres in Chester County — paid through a Commerce Department fund for closing economic development deals. State officials have approved up-front grants of $2 million each for improvements to the two office sites.

The three companies will also receive state tax credits once they meet their promised jobs benchmark.

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Associated Press writer Bruce Smith in Charleston, South Carolina, contributed to this report.

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