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Santee Cooper Distribution Line Technician Wesley Hill repairs lines along U.S. Highway 17 Bypass in Myrtle Beach.
Santee Cooper Distribution Line Technician Wesley Hill repairs lines along U.S. Highway 17 Bypass in Myrtle Beach.

Powering South Carolina: Jobs and Prosperity

Since cranking up our first hydro-electric generating unit more than 75 years ago, Santee Cooper’s reliable electricity, low rates, and strong economic development partnerships and incentives have attracted industries providing nearly 75,000 jobs across South Carolina.

Our loans, grants, other incentives and facilities have supported industrial recruitment in all 46 counties of the state. Governors, members of Congress and other state leaders have turned to Santee Cooper time and again to help with a project.

In the early 1990s, Gov. Carroll Campbell relied on us to redevelop the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base after the federal government closed it. Today that property holds industrial and educational facilities and The Market Common, a planned residential, business and retail community.

 

A Nucor employee keeps a watchful eye on an electric arc furnace. Nucor lobbied successfully to have Santee Cooper provide the plant’s electricity.
A Nucor employee keeps a watchful eye on an electric arc furnace. Nucor lobbied successfully to have Santee Cooper provide the plant’s electricity.

“Santee Cooper continues to be a great partner in economic development,” said Josh Kay, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation.  “With their assistance, we continue to transform the Myrtle Beach regional economy from a seasonal tourism-centered model to a modern, economically diverse, year-round community.”

More recently, former-Gov. Nikki Haley and Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt involved Santee Cooper in efforts to win Volvo’s first U.S. automobile manufacturing plant. Among other incentives, Santee Cooper was able to purchase a 6,800-acre tract and sell the plant site to Berkeley County, displaying a nimbleness that is widely recognized and highly valued among economic development leaders.

“Santee Cooper, we could not have done this without you,” Gov. Haley said during the plant groundbreaking in 2015. Volvo CEO Lex Kerssemakers also praised Santee Cooper, “who keeps it all on schedule,” at that event.

Santee Cooper and the South Carolina Power Team, the economic development arm of the state’s electric cooperatives, have worked together since 1988 recruiting jobs and recruiting industry. Together, we’ve helped secure more than $14 billion in capital investment, including the Volvo plant.

Next door to the Volvo plant, Santee Cooper is developing Camp Hall, a unique and workforce-centric commerce center that will allow companies and their employees to merge commerce, community and convenience.

“As an electric utility owned by the people of South Carolina, it is important that Santee Cooper do more than just provide additional buildings, land and incentives for industrial recruitment,” said Pamela Williams, senior vice president of corporate services for Santee Cooper. “We need to constantly raise the bar, and we will be doing that with Camp Hall. This will be a first-of-its-kind commerce park that will be a workplace destination, and not just a place to work.” More details about Camp Hall will be announced soon.

Santee Cooper is no stranger to growing the Lowcountry economy. Perhaps one of our most important contributions came in the wake of plans to close the Charleston Navy Base and shipyard. We helped create the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, which still works today to strengthen regional employment and prosperity by recruiting leading global corporations, talent and entrepreneurs to the tri-county area of Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester. Several Santee Cooper executives have served as chairman of the CRDA Board or as a member, including Williams, a current board member.

Tied to that same timeframe, we helped bring in Nucor Steel. In fact, Nucor President Kenneth Iverson announced the new Berkeley plant in 1995 at a press conference in Santee Cooper’s Moncks Corner auditorium. This $500 million investment created hundreds of jobs.

Santee Cooper harnesses the energy from lakes Marion and Moultrie at the Jefferies Hydroelectric Station.
Santee Cooper harnesses the energy from lakes Marion and Moultrie at the Jefferies Hydroelectric Station.

Nucor wanted Santee Cooper to provide the plant’s electricity and actually lobbied the General Assembly to change the service territory map to make that possible. More than 20 years later, Nucor is Santee Cooper’s largest industrial customer.

Thanks primarily to the Nucor announcement, Berkeley County had a $1 billion year in economic development announcements in 1995, the first time a South Carolina county reached that milestone. The impact lasted far beyond 1995, as well. A total of 10 additional industries (and two additional Nucor expansions) announced facilities in Berkeley County from 1995 to 1998, with a total worth of $787 million and 1,125 new jobs.

We were instrumental in bringing the Charleston area its first, large Class A industrial park in the 1990s, and the result – Mt. Holly Commerce Center – is now home to a Google data center that just recently announced a major expansion. At the park’s ribbon-cutting in 1999, Gov. Jim Hodges said, “the forward-thinking decision … to build the Mt. Holly Commerce Park will allow us to recruit more quality businesses to the Lowcountry.”

The Mt. Holly Commerce Center reflects a partnership between Berkeley County, Alumax and Santee Cooper. It opened in October 1999. Santee Cooper paid for the construction and was paid back by Berkeley County over several years. Alumax provided land for the park, and it is served by Berkeley Electric Cooperative.

Industry needs reliable water as well, and Santee Cooper operates two wholesale water systems on Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion. At the ribbon-cutting for the Lake Marion system, U.S. Rep. James Clyburn noted the tremendous benefit the water treatment plant would provide to communities along Interstate 95 that need reliable, clean and safe drinking water.

Santee Cooper operates two wholesale water systems, which help provide potable water to rural and growing areas in South Carolina.
Santee Cooper operates two wholesale water systems, which help provide potable water to rural and growing areas in South Carolina.

“Access to potable water is also a key component to attracting economic development to the I-95 corridor,” Clyburn said then.

Santee Cooper’s economic development incentive programs, however, are probably where we have made our greatest impact beyond the Lowcountry. The South Carolina Power Team, Santee Cooper and the state’s electric cooperatives announced in 2007 a series of grants to help certify industrial sites, provide professional development scholarships for economic development personnel and support economic development strategic planning at the local level. A few years later, we upped our investment in South Carolina significantly through new loan and grant programs, which have contributed more than $110 million to build industrial speculative buildings, help develop two inland ports, and provide site readiness and closing funds statewide. More than $80 million of that total is in loans, with the rest provided through our grant programs.

Sigmatex (Orangeburg County), Wyman-Gordon (Dillon County) and Coca-Cola Consolidated (Jasper County) are among the industries locating in buildings we helped make possible. Dorchester County has similar hopes for a new speculative building at Winding Woods Commerce Park, built with a $4.2 million Santee Cooper loan. The building has already drawn interest from manufacturers.

“I can’t guarantee you that if we build it, they will come,” said John Truluck, Dorchester County Economic Development director, in a November interview with the Charleston Post and Courier. “But I can guarantee you that if we don’t build it, they won’t come.”