The welcome mat is out for manufacturing in Kershaw County, and it comes with a host of advantages that should make many industrial mouths water. A vibrant community perched just beyond the edge of the state’s largest city, Kershaw County offers many of the benefits that industry seeks. Perhaps first among them is a business-friendly attitude: Kershaw County values advanced manufacturing and the jobs it brings. Local government has set aside space for manufacturing, and local entities are training workers for any industrial company that decides to call the area home.
Kershaw County Economic Development Director Peggy McLean says the county has land available in four industrial parks, plus the 1400-acre, rail-served Central South Carolina Megasite alongside I-20. These sites have water, gas, electrical, wastewater and fiber optics already in place.
The county touts its geography – part of the Columbia metro area from which to draw skilled labor; surrounded by major interstates I-20, I-95 and I-77, offering truck access to the entire country; and I-26, putting the Port of Charleston just two hours away. CSX railway runs through the county and brings goods south as far as Miami, north to the Canadian border and west to St. Louis.
A skilled workforce is critical for advanced manufacturing, and Kershaw County has multiple efforts ongoing to prepare students for the kinds of jobs that bolstered its economy. High schools are emphasizing STEM curricula and feeding area technical colleges –Central Carolina Technical College and Midlands Technical College – and the University of South Carolina. The county even established a program whereby industry leaders visit with high school guidance counselors to explain what skills students need to find jobs in local industries.
It’s not just the county, of course, or even just the schools. The state’s technical colleges operate the readySC program, which recruits and trains workers for industry. The county recently voted to invest $17 million to improve industrial parks, buildings and sites.
“(That) shows that we are eager to welcome new industry and support their success,” said Julian Burns, the chair of the Kershaw County Council.
The results speak for themselves. Three industrial companies expanded their operations in Kershaw County recently, investing more than $200 million and adding 550 jobs. Among them is Haier America, a subsidiary of the Chinese appliance maker Haier, which became the first Chinese manufacturer in the U.S., establishing a presence in Camden in 2000. Plans include a 250,000-square-foot addition.
“We’ve got supportive government, we’ve got the sites and buildings waiting, we’ve got access to markets, low taxes, skilled labor and a track record,” McLean said.
They’ve got another thing in Kershaw County – quality of life. You can live in downtown Columbia just down the road, or along the shores of Lake Wateree, or on a horse farm in Kershaw’s rolling hills. The area around Camden is famed for its equine activities, and includes more than 20 fulltime horse trainers and the Springdale Race Course, home of the Carolina Cup steeplechase race.