The three-person staff of the Laurens County Development Corporation has gone above and beyond the call of duty in the benefit of all us citizens, with the recent announcement of $648.6 MILLION in new investment for the Year 2023. An outsized portion of that is attributable to the giant ZF Transmissions plant in Gray Court-Owings, which has announced yet another expansion. A celebration is on tap for next month.
It was fitting then that the guest speaker for the LCDC’s Annual Meeting (and celebration!) was Tobias Brugger, Vice President and Plant Manager, ZF Transmissions Gray Court, LLC, Business Partner Operations Division E - Region North America ZF Group Electrified Powertrain Technology ZF Transmissions Gray Court, LLC (pictured below, standing left, with LCDC Executive Director Jon Coleman). ZF is a leading South Carolina industry developing Electric Vehicles, a market which helped South Carolina achieve in excess of $9 BILLION in new investments last year - Columbia and Charleston will reap most of those benefits; however, the ripple effects extend into all corners of the state, through employment and opportunities for the families now desiring to make South Carolina their home. Gov. Henry McMaster included ZF in his State of the State address last Wednesday, asking industry leaders to stand for recognition, he said, “In Laurens County, ZF Transmissions Grey Court is expanding its operation for the growing and evolving mobility industry with a $500 million investment and 400 jobs. Vice President and Plant Manager Mr. Tobias Brugger.”
But don’t believe for a minute that LCDC is steering us toward a “one trick pony” and dependence on a single type of industry, as the state was so dependent on textiles (before NAFTA).
These are other industies contributing to Laurens County’s most recent success: MPF Products, 13 jobs, $2.5M; Milliken, $15M; Alupress, 64 jobs, $26M; Tomahawk Processing, 26 jobs, $5.1M; of course, ZF is primary with 400 jobs in a $600M investment in Northern Laurens County (currently, 2,200 employees on 127.243 acres). And, oh yes, the Flame Spray announcement is on Page 9, and Duke Energy has announced plans for a $61M solar farm in Laurens County. All this bodes well for a diversified economy better suited for weathering the financial storms, natural or man-made.
When you apply an industry-accepted multiplier, that’s 679 potential jobs and $43,741,396 in earnings for which the Laurens County Workforce could be eligible from these projects. The average industrial wage in Laurens County is $21.36/hr. And, there could be more - LCDC is marketing two certified Palmetto sites sites, Clinton 26 Commerce Park and Power South.
The products that LCDC can offer industry locators, CEOs, and others include the Woodfields spec building, 320,000 sq ft; the Hunter Industrial Park spec building, 620,000 sq ft; the Clinton Commerce Park South expansion; and a Connexial Blvd expansion. In order to make these developments work, LCDC relies on partnership and, sometimes, these partners need to be nimble enough to shift immediate directions in order to capture opportunities. The Laurens County Water & Sewer Commission, for example, did not have the I-385 Connexial Center site on its immediate radar, until the South Carolina Department of Commerce recognized the chance for an industrial area south of Simpsonville. The Laurens Electric Cooperative also seized an opportunity there, and now the need exists to upgrade the interstate highway interchange in this area, because of growth and safety.
The county’s industry-hunting agency, headquartered in Downtown Laurens, intends to bring Industry and Investors together at its March 28 annual golf tournament. Almost certainly there will be excited talk about “even more next year” among stakeholders at this event. We applaud their forward vision. For more information on our work-friendly county, visit: www.GrowLaurensCounty.com.