This week’s Newberry NOTES, will bring you up to date on current county government activities and provide successful information of an effective County Council and staff promoting a flourishing and profitable 2017 year, and creating financial health, growth and wealth with County Administrator Wayne Adams.
• 2017 was a year of “firsts” in Newberry County. Two international companies – one small and one very large – established their first North American manufacturing operations in Newberry County.
What will be the future impacts of these companies on Newberry County?
Adams: It is gratifying that international companies looking to manufacture products for the entire continent of North America have chosen Newberry County as the place to locate. Newberry County is in the world, and the world is in Newberry County.
MM Technics is a small, family-owned, German company that is Newberry County’s first BMW supplier. BMW has to approve the locations of its suppliers, and with MM Technics we have now gained that approval. While MM Technics is small, it brings the higher-wage jobs we are seeking to improve our local economy and the well-being of our citizens. MM Technics makes stamped metal parts for the BMW X-5. The company is a supplier to both Mercedes and BMW in Europe, with plants in Germany and Poland.
Samsung is the whale that communities dream of catching. They’ve decided that Newberry County will be their epicenter in North America for home appliance manufacturing and product development. There are already 350 people working at the Newberry facility, a number that will rise to 500 by January and eventually to 1,000 or more.
These manufacturers are showing that international companies big and small can make their home base for North America right here in our community. Both companies look to be long-term employers with a sense of civic involvement. Look at what Samsung has done to honor our veterans. MM Technics is a big sponsor of the “Coats for Kids” winter coat drive this year. And these companies will create the kinds of jobs that keep more of our young people at home to make their working careers.
• The Mid-Carolina Commerce Park will now be home to two companies, not just MM Technics. An existing industry, Schweitzer Maudiut (aka SWM), now owns and will be moving into Newberry County’s speculative building at the Mid-Carolina Commerce Park.
Adams: SWM has been in the U.S. 219 industrial park for a decade. They make self- extinguishing cigarette paper, which is a safety requirement in some states. Their move to the Mid-Carolina Commerce Park, which won’t be complete until January of 2019, had to do with our success in getting Samsung to locate here.
Only because they were willing to move and give Samsung room for expansion were we able to get Samsung to come to Newberry County. Dr. Choi (of Samsung) made it quite clear to us when we were in South Korea that getting SWM to relocate was absolutely essential to their plans. We have to credit the S.C. Department of Commerce and their support for the SWM move as one of the critical turning points in our recruitment of Samsung. We also have to recognize the strong efforts of the S.C. Power Team and Keith Avery of the Newberry Electric Coop.
In working the Samsung project, we saw why so many international companies choose to make South Carolina their home. The staff under Secretary Bobby Hitt and at the Power Team is extremely competent and professional. We learned a lot from working with them.
• What will it take, in terms of development costs, to bring a third company (and subsequent tenants) into the Mid-Carolina Commerce Park?
Adams: To give you an example, just developing the building pad for MM Technics cost over $1 million. To develop the 15-acre site directly across from them will cost about the same.
We have about 30 acres that can be developed in this way before we have to spend approximately $4.5 million to access and provide roadways and infrastructure for 180 acres on the other side of the creek.
Because these sites are so expensive to develop, we cannot afford to use our industrial sites for projects that don’t either create high-wage jobs or create large- scale capital investment – ideally, both. These sites aren’t for companies that want to invest, say, a million dollars and create a dozen $10/hour jobs.
• Getting back to Samsung, there have been national and state-level reports indicating potential tariff problems for that company in building its home appliances in the U.S. How will that affect the company’s home appliance factory in Newberry?
Adams: Whirlpool, which owns several other U.S. brands, is behind this. They’ve invoked a rarely used “safeguard” in U.S. trade law to try and eliminate competition for themselves in the U.S. market. They have asked the U.S. International Trade Commission for tariffs as high as 50% on imported washing machines over a certain volume of units (1.2 million).
Whirlpool is doing this now even though Samsung has been in the U.S. home appliance market for 11 years. Samsung is also building a factory here in Newberry to manufacture all their washing machines for the U.S. market. They have already hired 350 American workers for this purpose and will eventually employ 1,000 workers here.
In the weeks ahead, President Donald Trump will decide what, if any, tariffs are implemented, but our message and the message of South Carolina’s leaders – Governor Henry McMaster and our representatives in the U.S. Congress – is that no remedies are necessary.
Samsung is committed to a long-term strategy of manufacturing their washing machines and other home appliances in the U.S. – in Newberry, as a matter of fact – using American workers.
• Samsung officials, Governor McMaster, and the presidents of Clemson and USC jointly announced the creation of the Palmetto Consortium for Home Appliance Innovation. Is this something county officials anticipated when you were recruiting Samsung to Newberry?
Adams: Samsung talked about a partnership with universities when we visited them in South Korea, but we thought this was something that might happen down the road, in maybe a few years. What we’re learning about Samsung is that, for them, the future is today. They move quickly in everything they do. For instance, Caterpillar never moved fast enough to suit Samsung in turning over the building. They’ve worked on up-fits to the building and hiring workers simultaneously, doing both at a furious pace.
What we’re witnessing is one of the largest, most powerful companies in the world economy establish their North American base in all facets. And they’re doing it in Newberry County. As we continue to watch this, I think we will be astonished again and again.
• Samsung was named economic development project of the year for 2017 by the S.C. Chamber of Commerce’s “Branded S.C.” program. Some of the discussion we’ve had today would seem to support that award. From the county-official perspective, what do you see as justifying this recognition?
Adams: The impact they are having on Newberry County – an impact that is beginning to ripple across the state in some respects – justifies the award. There are only a handful of companies in the world that can create this kind of juggernaut. The selection committee obviously knew this.
When we were recruiting Samsung we sensed that their location here could be something very big, but they have done nothing but amaze us again and again since day one.
• What are the county’s primary goals for 2018?
Adams: Examples: Keeping our focus on fiscal responsibility. Developing more industrial sites and continuing to market the properties we have. Keeping economic development focused on recruiting higher-wage jobs. Making sure the penny sales tax projects are completed timely and within budget. Preserving what we like about Newberry County even as we experience positive growth.
Margaret Brackett is from Newberry. Her columns appear weekly in The Newberry Observer.