Mercedes announces $500 million expansion of N. Charleston plant, new jobs

VIDEO: Daimler AG announces $500 plant expansion, new jobs in North Charleston
Published: Mar. 6, 2015 at 12:42 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 6, 2015 at 4:23 PM EST
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NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Daimler AG will build Mercedes Sprinter vans from scratch in North Charleston, company officials said during a media event on Friday morning.

Volker Mornhinweg, head of Mercedes Benz Vans, confirmed the company will build full scale production site for Sprinter vans in South Carolina.

"The region has very highly-skilled workers, a dense network of reliable suppliers, and an outstanding logistics infrastructure that includes good transport connections to the nearby harbor," Mornhinweg said.

The new production plant in North Charleston, S.C. will supply the North American market with the next-generation Sprinter, creating 1,300 new jobs over the next several years. Construction on the facility, which represents a $500 million investment, is expected to begin next year, Mornhinweg said.

Mornhinweg said the United States is the second-largest market for the vans in the world and last year had a record nine percent market share.

"We want to build closer to the customers," Mornhinweg said.

The company has sold 2.8 million Sprinter vans in 130 countries. In 2014, the company delivered approximately 26,000 Sprinters to U.S. customers, making the United States the company's second-largest sales market behind Germany, according to a statement from Gov. Haley's office. The Sprinter has been available in the U.S. since 2001, and the company has operated its current van assembly operation in Charleston County since 2006, the statement read.

Gov. Nikki Haley told Mercedes Benz workers, "You did this!" at the announcement.

The new Sprinter plant will be constructed on approximately 200 acres off of Palmetto Commerce Parkway and will feature a completely new body shop,  a paint shop and an assembly line, according to Governor's Office spokesman Brian Symmes.

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said the Mercedes-Benz star represents "hard work, wonderful planning and extremely good design."

"In North Charleston, we are fortunate to boast a strong economy and an environment that is ripe for businesses to flourish," Summey said. "Yet, today's announcement from Daimler is truly transformative to our business landscape, validating North Charleston as an automotive manufacturing hub."

"It's a great day in South Carolina and a damn wonderful day in North Charleston," Summey said.

Summey's son, Charleston County Council Chairman J. Elliott Summey said Charleston county will be the only county in the world that can boast of producing jets and automobiles, references to both Mercedes-Benz and Boeing.

The major industrial announcement is part of a secret project local and state leaders had dubbed 'Project Unicorn.' While under wraps, the project was considered "Boeing-esque," with officials initially saying it would bring up to 1,200 new jobs to the Lowcountry.

"There's going to be a demand for workers here like you've never seen before and we are going to meet that demand," South Carolina House Rep. Chip Limehouse said.

Right now, parts for Mercedes Sprinter vans are shipped from Germany to the Daimler AG plant in North Charleston.

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