Industry plans to buy spec building
by The Press and Standard | August 23, 2018 5:00 am
Last Updated: August 22, 2018 at 10:30 am
Company could employ 360 — if deal goes through.
An unnamed company’s plans for the vacant 100,000-square-foot spec building at Colleton Commerce Park will take the county’s economic development efforts to the next level.
Based on limited information contained in two ordinances given a second reading at council’s Aug. 14 meeting, an as-yet unnamed food product packaging manufacturing company plans to purchase the building.
One ordinance, which would orchestrate a fee-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement between the county and company, states the company anticipates investing approximately $70 million in new machinery and equipment.
Within five years of operation, the company promises to have approximately 360 full-time employees.
Even though the ordinances are set for a final reading and passage at county council’s Sept. 11 session, Colleton County Economic Development Director Heyward Horton remains cautious. He points out he has seen plans this far along fall apart in the past.
He said it’s “saying some prayers and keeping fingers crossed that gets it done.”
But, he agrees that if it all comes together, this would be the biggest economic development project the county has seen.
He can’t name the company as yet; the state mandates that all the information about the prospective new employer remain confidential until the fee-in-lieu agreement is finalized and all paperwork is completed.
Even when that is done, Horton said, it will be some time before the company is ready to begin operation. The company will have to get the interior of the spec center designed and then constructed. The spec building was constructed with dirt floors and, while electrical service was brought into the building, the interior still has to be wired and other infrastructures like heating, ventilation and air conditioning installed.
Horton expects that if the plans get to that point, the company will move quickly to get that work completed.
Both the level of company investment and potential labor force dwarf what the county’s previous economic development efforts have produced.
In May of 2016, J&L Wire Co. announced it would establish a new facility. The move, according to the fee-in-lieu agreement, represented a $2.5 million investment and creation of 50 jobs within the first five years.
In June of 2016, the state announced that JGBR would make a $7.2 million investment to establish a facility that would provide 65 new jobs, according to the numbers in the fee-in-lieu agreement.
In April of 2018, the South Carolina Department of Commerce announced that Lowcountry Aviation would begin operations at the Lowcountry Regional Airport under a state incentive package that differed from a fee-in-lieu. That agreement required the company to make a $1.7 million investment and employ 36. Both numbers were below what Lowcountry Aviation expected in terms of investment and labor force.
Lowcountry Aviation’s leasing agreement with Walterboro-Colleton County Airport Commission required a $3 million investment. Commission members were informed at a recent meeting that the company has met that goal.
At that airport commission meeting, Horton told the commission members in his economic development report that the county was in the final stages of attracting two new companies to the county.
One, he told the airport commission, would purchase the spec building. The second economic development initiative could result in another unnamed company becoming the first tenant in the county’s Venture Park.
Horton had to refresh the airport commission’s memory on where Venture Park was. He explained that Venture Park was the new economic development area that the county established in the county-owned land that surrounds the Sarlaflex facility in the 1400 block of Industrial Road. The additional land was purchased at the same time as the county took possession of the former New York Wire building at 1497 Industrial Rd. The county, using another Colleton County Economic Development Corporation, purchased the building and then sold it to Sarlaflex.
The 81 acres of land around the manufacturing plant became Venture Park.
One ordinance given a second reading during council’s Aug. 14 meeting lays the groundwork for the county’s selling of the spec building and some surrounding acreage to the company that continues to be identified as Project EPS.
The spec building was constructed in 2014 and was designed and constructed so it could be expanded to up to 600,000 square feet. Since it was finished, the spec building and acreage has been for sale at a price of $2,250,000.
Under the terms of the ordinance, the county will turn over ownership of the facility to one of the economic development non-profit entities county council established several years ago. Colleton County Economic Development Corporation One will then negotiate the sale of the spec building.
At a county council special session on July 20, council members gave the property transfer ordinance a first reading by title only. The titles gave little information about what was happening.