NEWBERRY — During Newberry County Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Breakfast, residents received updates on economic development in Newberry County, on the Dominion/SCANA deal and other updates from the State House.
County Administrator Wayne Adams said in 2017 Newberry County had a really good year.
“The biggest thing to happen of course was Samsung. You might not know this, but Samsung is one of the ten largest manufacturing companies in the world, and last summer they announced they would have their first non-semiconductor manufacturing plant in the United States, located in Newberry,” he said. “We are all pleased by that and miraculously that plant is already in production, in fact they hired over 600 workers now.”
Adams added that the Samsung project was bolstered later in the year when they announced the Palmetto Consortium of Home Appliance Innovation for home appliance innovation. This partnership will involve the University of South Carolina and Clemson University working on Samsung’s home appliance research and development.
“I think there is a lot of potential here for growth by Samsung, I do not think we can take their growth here for granted,” he said. “I think that would be a mistake, we will still have to compete for that growth, we’ll have to offer suitable building sites for expansion, property tax incentives and the biggest thing is a qualified work force, which is getting harder and harder to find.”
During 2017, Adams said they had success on a smaller scale with MM Technics, a German metal stamping company that came to Newberry County on a contract as a supplier for BMW.
“Recently, they have gotten a contract with Mercedes passenger vehicles as well,” he said.
MM Technics opened their facility last fall in the Mid-Carolina Commerce Park, they have about a dozen employees, with the expectation of ramping that up to several dozen over the next year or so, according to Adams.
“MM Technics came here with a consulting firm that specializes in German products. That firm had shopped South Carolina for a lot of projects, and I think used us for competitive purposes, but they never located one of their projects here in South Carolina. In fact, the owner of MM Technics went against their recommendation, when the process was over they wanted the project located in Georgia. We are the first county to win a project for this state from those consultants,” he said.
Adams believes these projects have brightened the future for young people in Newberry County. He has heard over and over that there is nothing for Newberry County for youths to do after they graduate from high school or college.
“I was very pleased to learn MM Technics hired two graduates from the Newberry Campus Piedmont Technical College mechatronics program and sent them to Germany for six weeks to train,” Adams said. “I am hearing constantly about folks who are traveling to South Korea from Newberry County to train for jobs with Samsung. Both companies are providing unique and high paying opportunities for our young people.”
Adams believes Newberry County has taken part of the modern manufacturing miracle, adding that manufacturing had died out in the United States for decades, but we are now seeing a resurgence.
“But we have to remember, the reason we are taking advantage of it, and benefiting from it, is because we prepared. Over the past several years County Council has expanded our Economic Development department, emphasized foreign marketing missions, built better technology education facilities and prepared marketable industrial sites,” Adams said. “Without that kind of preparation we would have missed out in the revitalization of manufacturing in the United States. So I think we have our leaders here to thank for that.”
Now that it is 2018, Adams said it is not the time to rest, but rather press forward.
“We’ve got to identify properties for expansion for Samsung and other industries here. We have to find sites for new companies, Council already has plans to develop another 14 acre pad ready site at the Mid-Carolina Commerce Park, and we’ll have to look at optioning some properties for larger projects and testing the properties for suitability,” he said. “Without these property inventories, we could miss out on the manufacturing miracle, we could lose the full potential of what we have going. I think that would be a terrible waste.”
South Carolina Representative Rick Martin discussed what he called the V.C. Summer debacle, he said he has received calls from many people asking if the project will be finished and what will happen.
“As of right now there has been $1.9 billion already brought in through financing, if you live in the state of South Carolina, unless you live in the City of Newberry or the town of Prosperity, you are directly impacted by the V.C. Summer debacle,” he said. “There’s owed to vendors, including a man here in Newberry County, a little over nine billion dollars still owed to creditors. Looking at almost $11 billion so far that has been brought in, spent out and still owed. It would take an additional $15 billion to finish that project.”
When it comes to the Dominion Energy Deal, Martin is still up in the air, saying there are good points and bad points. He added that Dominion has no design to finish the project.
When it comes to accepting the deal, Martin said when it comes to basic negotiating you do not take the first deal that is offered.
“Last week we voted, in the House, to repeal the Base Load Review Act. In 2007 the legislature voted to pass the Act, and that gave power to the PSC (Public Service Commission) to allow a utility to raise rates when they need it, to start the project. It was a good deal, if it was used the way it was supposed to be,” he said. “SCANA abused it, they kept going to the PSC and wanting to raise rates, over the last 10 years they have raised rates up to a little over 18%, for a project never going to be finished, they are still charging it.”
Last week, the House pulled the Base Load Review Act back and took the 18% that has been raised and took that back to zero.
State House updates
South Carolina Senator Ronnie Cromer gave a few updates on things happening in the State House. The first involved solar credit bill.
“What it did, the power companies were against it at first, but then they finally said ‘well it looks like we are gonna have to buy into it.’ If you buy solar panels for the top of your house, then when you have an overage of power you are not using, you can sell it back to the power company, however the limit is two percent,” he said.
One issue that he said will need to be addressed is ethics. He said they have had one or two incidents in the legislature, and they maybe need to revisit their ethics laws.
“About two or three years ago I was the chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, the chairman of that committee can go around and poll his members, and if we get a simple majority, set the bill to special order,” Cromer said. “Gov. Nikki Haley was calling me constantly, she wanted that ethics bill, we finally got it through. It has some substantial increases in it.”
The bill says legislators have to note exactly where all of their money came from, designating if they got paid as a law firm from a particular corporation and then if you voted for something from that corporation or represented them in the State House buy doing some in-house lobbying. Cromer noted one legislator got into some trouble for not doing just that.
“I’m not sure if we are going to have to tackle this ethics issue again, I don’t expect us to do it this year, the legislature operates in a two year cycle. We are in the second year of session. This year will of our efforts are concentrated on trying to clean up the SCANA debacle,” Cromer said.
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @ TheNBOnews.