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The Volvo Effect


May 14, 2015   By Mollie Gore in Economic Development

I had a voicemail this morning from a reporter based in London. That's an unusual start to my day: I frequently get calls from media in other states, but not often from other countries.

I call it the Volvo effect, and that call is just a hint of the interest generated by Volvo Car Corp.'s decision to build a manufacturing plant in northwestern Berkeley County.

This announcement follows an aggressive, professional recruiting initiative led by Gov. Nikki Haley and Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt and including many other partners: the South Carolina Power Team, the South Carolina Ports Authority, Berkeley County, ReadySC, Edisto Electric Cooperative and Berkeley Electric Cooperative, to name a handful.

Santee Cooper and Berkeley County have agreed to purchase property for the project, with Berkeley owning the actual Volvo site. Santee Cooper will keep close to 4,000 acres to develop into additional industrial sites for companies who want or need to locate near the legendary Swedish car company. Santee Cooper also will provide electricity to the property, known as the Camp Hall tract, directly and through Edisto Electric and Berkeley Electric cooperatives.

Santee Cooper has always been tasked with promoting economic development; it's one way we fulfill our mission to be the state's leading resource for improving the quality of life for all South Carolinians. As a state-owned electric utility, we do this primarily through maintaining affordable, reliable electricity. And a few years ago, our board approved additional resources for us to help attract industry to the state: new incentive electric rates that discount power for a start-up period, and loans and grants to help local governments and nonprofits build industrial spec buildings and provide roads, water and other infrastructure to commerce parks.

These programs more than pay for themselves. The loans are repaid, of course. The grants and other investments will generate energy sales and other revenue, and the additional electricity consumed by these manufacturers will help our other customers by spreading the fixed costs of our generating stations and transmission lines across a more populated customer base.

Santee Cooper is always supportive of the Commerce Department's efforts to recruit new jobs and industry to South Carolina. What's especially nice is when the industry is a world-class manufacturer with a reputation for stewardship and a promise of jobs and investment that will transform this part of the state.

As Santee Cooper President and CEO Lonnie Carter said at Monday's announcement: "Volvo Cars will do much more than make automobiles in Berkeley County. Volvo will raise the standard of life throughout the Lowcountry and throughout our state."