SC closing out record year in economic development deals, pushing past $10B in investments

Berkeley County will soon be home to a new $3.5 billion electric vehicle battery plant.
Published: Dec. 14, 2022 at 7:46 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 14, 2022 at 8:14 PM EST
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RIDGEVILLE, S.C. (WCSC) - A new, $3.5-billion electric vehicle battery plant will soon call South Carolina home, with the Berkeley County project announced Wednesday marking the largest economic development deal in state history.

It also caps a historic year for economic development overall for South Carolina, which has secured $10.1 billion in capital investments in 2022 from companies that will build and expand in the state.

Those combined projects will create more than 13,000 new jobs, according to the governor’s office.

“That’s a lot of investment, and it speaks well for a long list of things in our state, especially the people because they bring executives, but they hire our people to work in these multi-billion-dollar operations,” Gov. Henry McMaster said.

McMaster joined other state and leaders in Ridgeville on Wednesday, when Redwood Materials officially announced its plan to build a $3.5-billion electric vehicle battery recycling and production facility in Berkeley County, bringing 1,500 new jobs with it.

Nearly half of the $10.1 billion in capital investments comes from Redwood Materials and two other projects, all three announced within the last two months.

In October, BMW announced it is spending $1.7 billion to expand electric vehicle production and build a new battery assembly facility in Spartanburg County.

Last week, Envision AESC, a Japanese company, announced an $810-million investment for a battery cell gigafactory in Florence County to supply BMW.

The state said these three deals combined will create nearly 3,000 new jobs, and all are connected to the electric vehicle industry.

About a week before the BMW announcement, McMaster signed an executive order to direct state agencies to prioritize recruiting electric vehicle-related companies to South Carolina.

“The auto industry is undergoing its biggest transformation since the days of Henry Ford, and that is really what’s driving this huge investment cycle that we’re seeing,” South Carolina Secretary of Commerce Harry Lightsey said. “I think this really puts us in the position to continue to build our automobile industry in our state for decades to come.”

Redwood Materials noted its existing partnerships with automotive manufacturers like Toyota and Volvo, which have already established factories in the region — in the case of Volvo, just down the street from the future Redwood Materials plant.

McMaster said Wednesday’s deal is the type that can spur even more development in the future as South Carolina looks ahead to 2023.

“It gives one more asset to our other vehicle manufacturers already in the state, makes us even more attractive,” the governor said.

Among the reasons why Redwood Materials said it chose South Carolina to expand, it cited the state’s location, its competitive workforce, and Charleston now being home to the deepest port on the eastern seaboard.

The state and Berkeley County also both agreed to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars in incentives to entice the company to build in the Palmetto State.

“We’re absolutely convinced this is the right place for us to be, and this is a very smart decision for us to continue our investments here,” Redwood Materials founder JB Straubel said.

According to the Nevada-based manufacturer, the anode and cathode components in EV batteries are currently not produced in the US, forcing producers to import them from nations like China and spending billions of dollars to do so.

“This latest investment from Redwood Materials proves that South Carolina continues to be home to innovation in technology and manufacturing,” South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott said in a statement. “I’m excited to see the work begin because the domestic production of these batteries will create more jobs and opportunities for our growing state and make our battery supply chain more secure.”