Two years ago, Volvo announced that it would build a $500 million facility in Berkeley County and hire 2,000 people to produce its S60 sedan. That news was greeted with celebration.
Now double that. Volvo’s decision to invest another $520 million at its campus near Ridgeville and hire another 1,910 workers to produce its SC90 SUV gives the region twice the reason to celebrate.
The expansion will mean more money infused into the state and local economy, more jobs that pay well, more business for the port of Charleston and more visibility as a place ready to compete successfully in the global market.
It also means that Volvo, a Swedish company that conducts business around the globe, has enough confidence in South Carolina to start expanding even before the first automobile is produced.
Indeed, Lex Kerssemakers, president and CEO of Volvo’s North American operations, said just that, adding that the state’s “entrepreneurship, infrastructure and attitude” drew Volvo here.
State leaders and budget officers should pay special attention to his assertion that the state’s technical college system was a key incentive and that all the production workers hired to date are state residents who have gone through its ReadySC training program. The program deserves continued, ample funding by the state.
Volvo is enjoying financial incentives provided by the state and Berkeley County. Berkeley County Council has approved $3.5 million toward the expansion, mostly for a waterline tie-in to Lake Marion and road improvements. Further, the S.C. Department of Commerce is seeking $46 million from the state to help offset infrastructure costs associated with the expansion.
It is important for Volvo and for the Lowcountry to use those funding sources to provide infrastructure able to handle taxing new demands on roads, schools, hospitals and the environment in this mostly rural area and beyond.
The first XC90 SUVs are expected to begin construction here in 2021. It is the most popular Volvo car in the United States but is manufactured only in Sweden and Malaysia. A crossover, it is credited with helping the turnaround of Volvo in this country. Volvo, headquartered in Sweden, experienced a slump under the ownership of Ford. It is now owned by China’s Geely Holding Group.
Berkeley County has an opportunity with Volvo’s growing presence to attract more businesses, and to show the state how such growth can be facilitated without compromising the natural environment and quality of life.