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Vic's View

Vic's View: County's Best Corporate Citizen

Are we really going to see these $500M - $600M investments in EVs and batteries throughout South Carolina come to fruition?


Ordinance #945, approved last Monday by the Laurens County Council, has the potential to be a transformative piece of local legislation.

It could not be announced until 2 p.m. last Tuesday, which made the information too late for our Nov. 15 newspaper. Interested local readers could find the announcement on the front page of The Laurens Advertiser - they have a Tuesday deadline, we have a Monday deadline.

When our printer proposed a Monday evening deadline several months ago, we had no idea it would disqualify us from “getting the scoop” on monumental news. We knew we would be a week late reporting on the Clinton City Council and the District 56 Board of Trustees, but that was just a matter of writing articles in a different way, not so much “breaking news” as a little more detailed and explanatory.

The announcement from state officials says ZF Transmissions will invest $500 Million at its Gray Court-Owings facility - Ordinance #945 says the investment is $600 Million. We suspect the discrepancy has something to do with the trigger amount for industries qualifying for EV (electric vehicles) tax credits under the Biden Administration. Make no mistake, these credits will not survive the next Trump Administration - he has already said so, adding “who wants to drive their car for 20 minutes then have to recharge?” - so the rush is on in the auto industry to cash in on this phase of what has been called “The Green New Deal.”

The announcement doesn’t SAY EV, it says “next generation propulsion systems”, but it kind of sounds like a distinction without a difference. Plus, ZF already has shown employees and the media its next axles and such related to EV.

Whether it’s $500M or $600M is, of course, nearly immaterial -- THAT is a lot of money. Plus the 400 new jobs will help shelter a 3% unemployment rate in Laurens County if there is another economic downturn. 

This is the biggest single investment in Laurens County’s history. 

It comes with work for Laurens County, which will have to administer a $15 Million State grant for the project AND a $3.5 Million County grant toward ZF’s expansion. It’s not entirely clear where the local money will come from -- industrial park discretionary funds, I suspect - but in any case, someone in the Hillcrest Center and/or the LCDC headquarters in downtown Laurens is going to have some work to do, on this project.

And, they will gladly do it, on behalf of an industry we are grateful to have - ZF Transmissions, our best corporate citizen.  

 Vic MacDonald is Editor of The Clinton Chronicle. In June, 2025, he will observe his 50th year in community journalism.