Volvo expansion has Berkeley County planning for increased growth rate

Volvo's expected $1 billion investment would create 3,900 jobs in Berkeley County once the company's second line is producing vehicles.

When Volvo Cars officially announced its expansion plans last week, it represented a doubling of its investment and reinforced its commitment to the area.

The investment will add another $520 million to the Berkeley County site and will mean 1,910 more jobs. Combined with the numbers from the 2015 announcement, the total investment is more than $1 billion and 3,900 jobs.

"Today's announcement not only underscores Volvo's commitment to the United States, but also our commitment to South Carolina,” said Lex Kerssemakers, president and CEO of Volvo Cars of North America.

Volvo announced in 2015 -- exactly two years before the Oct. 25 event -- that the S60 sedan will be manufactured in Ridgeville. The latest plan is not just about adding more sedans to the assembly line, it’s for an additional vehicle.

“The XC90 our flagship SUV also will be built at this facility here behind us,” Kerssemakers said from podium.

Also sharing the stage with Kerssemakers on Monday were U.S. Representative James Clyburn, Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt, Berkeley County Supervisor William Peagler and Gov. Henry McMaster.

“These companies, we’ve seen starting years ago but coming faster and faster now, could go anywhere in the world and they are coming to South Carolina,” McMaster said after the announcement. "In just the past two years, Volvo Cars has proven to be an exemplary South Carolina company that is committed to our state and to its community.”

More product means more space. Also divulged Monday was an additional construction project. There will be an 88,000-square-foot office facility built on the site. It will serve as a training center and will house research and development, among other things.

“This speaks to the vibrancy of our county,” said county supervisor William Peagler. “We're thankful Volvo Cars believed in us more than two years ago and are honored they're strengthening and growing their commitment here.”

The announcement is good news for the economy but it puts additional strains on area infrastructure for the nation’s 17th fastest growing county.

“We’re not sitting on our hands,” Peagler said. “Were replacing the bridges on 176, we’re looking at the expansion of 176 already, we are trying to get funding. None of these things can be fixed overnight.”

The county has already signed off on $3.5 million to pay for additional water lines and road widening to cushion Volvo’s expansion. An incentive effort that reinforces the county’s business-friendly environment but what about its residents?

Peagler said they are doing their best to stay ahead of curve.

“We are not going to wait until the last minute we are trying to get something done now,” he said. “Berkeley County is open for business. We mean business but we’re not going to do business to the detriment of the quality of life to our citizens.”

Local officials said the county's growth benefits the entire state, therefore the Lowcountry should move to the front of line when money for infrastructure is needed. U.S. Congressman Jim Clyburn agreed, but added a new approach is needed.

“One of the things we have to do is be more broad in our thinking when we start developing this stuff,” Clyburn said. "We need more regional planning and regional thinking and if we do that everyone will see the benefit. The problem has been communities competing against communities.”