Search Santee Cooper
Power Source
Winter 2017

................

South Carolina Notable State

................

All Stories From The CEO Business Briefly News Source Download PDF Past Issues
Ritchie McQueeney, owner of Thermo King of Columbia, talks with Chad Lowder, CEO of Tri-County Electric Cooperative, and Heath Hill, president of the Tri-County Electric Cooperative Board of Trustees.
Ritchie McQueeney, owner of Thermo King of Columbia, talks with Chad Lowder, CEO of Tri-County Electric Cooperative, and Heath Hill, president of the Tri-County Electric Cooperative Board of Trustees.

Bringing In Business

Ritchie McQueeney was on the hunt. He was expanding his business, and he needed a place to put it.

McQueeney expected to build quickly, on land that already had roads, water, sewer and the like. His company, Thermo King Columbia, takes trailers, trucks, vans and railcars and outfits them with refrigeration and other equipment for food transport. He works with some of the biggest names in the business, and he wanted an industrial site that would handle his growth. 

“I took my time with it,” McQueeney said. “It was a huge decision. I was a 58 year old looking to make an investment like I was 38.”

Ritchie McQueeney, owner of Thermo King of Columbia, shows off one of the many trailers his company has outfitted with a multi-zone refrigeration system to keep food cool.
Ritchie McQueeney, owner of Thermo King of Columbia, shows off one of the many trailers his company has outfitted with a multi-zone refrigeration system to keep food cool.

McQueeney connected with Chad T. Lowder, CEO of Tri-County Electric Cooperative, which distributes electricity to a big part of Calhoun County including several potential industrial sites. Lowder showed McQueeney the I-26 Industrial Park, which featured excellent access to Interstate 26. “It didn’t have sewer,” McQueeney recalled.

They kept looking. In the meantime, Lowder secured a $305,000 Site Readiness Fund Grant which, when paired with matching local money, let Calhoun County build a sewer lift station and connect the I-26 Industrial Park to public sewer nearby.

Almost immediately, Thermo King committed to the I-26 Park, as did another expanding Columbia company. Between the two industries, they announced plans to invest $8.2 million and hire about 140 people. That equals a big win for Tri-County Electric Cooperative and Calhoun County, and it’s one example of how the state’s electric cooperatives and Santee Cooper are improving lives across the Palmetto State.

Site Readiness Fund grants to electric cooperatives are creating opportunity for industrial development across South Carolina, as indicated by the red dots on this map.
Site Readiness Fund grants to electric cooperatives are creating opportunity for industrial development across South Carolina, as indicated by the red dots on this map.

McQueeney has now doubled his facility space from his original location in Columbia, and he’s planning another addition at the Calhoun site. “We’re forward facing. We know we can grow now,” he said. “The biggest thing for me is I’m more of a sales guy and now I don’t have to tell a customer ‘no.’ We can get things done.”

Santee Cooper created its Site Readiness Fund programs in 2014, establishing grants available for high-value projects in co-op territories, within the borders of our municipal wholesale customers, or within our retail customer territory.

James Chavez, who was involved in the grant process for electric cooperatives as president and CEO of the South Carolina Power Team, calls Calhoun’s I-26 Industrial Park “a great example of the value of the Site Readiness Fund Grants. That park kept getting looked at, but it kept getting kicked out for one reason – lack of sewer capacity. What this grant program has done is given us a tool to make a difference in these ‘but-for’ sites.”

By providing grant funding for cooperative, municipal and direct-serve sites, Santee Cooper has supported economic development across South Carolina – living up to our mission and responsibility to do just that. In addition to its Site Readiness Grants, Santee Cooper also provides attractive power rates for large industry, loans to help counties and cooperatives finance industrial shell buildings, and other incentives to help land new industry and jobs.

Often, industry is looking for a site as close to move-in ready as possible, which motivated development of this speculative building in Calhoun County adjacent to I-26.
Often, industry is looking for a site as close to move-in ready as possible, which motivated development of this speculative building in Calhoun County adjacent to I-26.

Chavez notes that in today’s cutthroat industrial market, “site readiness funding has allowed us to make significant investments in areas where we can get a win. This is a legacy initiative.”

In just two years, Santee Cooper has funded 14 Site Readiness Grants to electric cooperatives, totaling $18.8 million in South Carolina, including in many rural communities from York to Georgetown counties. The grants secured another $52.4 million in local matching funds from those cooperatives and other local partners.  

Just last month, Newberry Electric Cooperative used a Site Readiness Grant to help bring MM Technics, a metal stamping company serving auto manufacturers, to Mid-Carolina Commerce Park in Newberry County. The $625,000 grant, with a $625,000 local match, will yield a return of $12.6 million in investment and 65 new jobs.

“The investment that the grants secure is important, but more than that, they are bringing industry to our state, providing jobs for our customers and lifting up entire communities,” said Mike Cool, Santee Cooper manager of economic development. “Part of Santee Cooper’s responsibility is to promote economic development across the state, and we have formed a very effective team with the the electric cooperatives. This is particularly important in rural parts of the state. The co-ops know these communities, and they have the best vision for how they can create opportunity that will lock in new industries and jobs.”

Lowder also applied for a Site Readiness Grant to help Orangeburg County improve the entrance to the John W. Matthews Industrial Park, which attracted Sigmatex in 2015 and is looking to sign on other industrial tenants. Interest has picked up, in large part because the park entrance provides a great first impression and represents the community well.

“In rural areas especially, you have to invest money and you have to have product,” Lowder said. With the availability of the Site Readiness Grant and other resources from the co-ops and Santee Cooper, counties have become more active in developing product. For instance, Calhoun County is building its own industrial speculative building to keep the ball rolling.

“Now Tri-County is looking at purchasing and developing a new industrial park,” Lowder said. “It’s an exciting time. I really see good things coming down the next couple of years.”

Black River Electric Cooperative is also working to position its service territory to capture industries looking to relocate. Charlie Allen, Black River CEO, noted the major role that site selector consultants play in helping industry – especially foreign industry – choose manufacturing locations. That only adds to the hardships for rural areas with few or no developed sites.

“From my perspective, the purpose of these consulting firms is to eliminate sites, to reduce the list,” Allen said. “Everything you can do to keep yourself in the running is a huge, huge help. These grants help us and the community provide some of that initial infrastructure, to get into those final rounds where we can start talking about details and working to win a project.”

Mike Cool, economic development manager for Santee Cooper
Mike Cool, economic development manager for Santee Cooper

Allen’s cooperative is purchasing property for its own industrial site as well, in Clarendon County. Working with the county, they are creating road access. The site is next to Interstate 95 and already has rail access, and there are good anchor industries nearby. “Industries like to go where industry already is,” Allen said.

Black River has also used grant funds to clean up a 20-year-old speculative building located in a remote industrial park in Sumter County.

“We cleaned it up, repainted the inside, made it more presentable, repaved the driveway, put a fence around the outside and provided more security,” Allen said. “We’ve had several people look at it this year, and there is currently one very serious prospect."

Tri-County Electric Cooperative used site readiness funds to improve the entrance of Matthews Industrial Park.
Tri-County Electric Cooperative used site readiness funds to improve the entrance of Matthews Industrial Park.

These are exactly the kind of results Santee Cooper had in mind when we created the Site Readiness Fund, and it is gratifying to see the success it is bringing across such a wide field, Cool said.

That’s good news for co-op leaders like Allen.

“I think this program is very important,” he said. “Economic development, especially in some of the rural areas that we serve, has to be a team effort between the co-op, the state and Santee Cooper. It’s a win for everybody when we get an industry in here. It provides jobs for the people who live here, a better tax base to provide services for the residents, and a better quality of life all the way around.”