Calhoun and Bamberg may be among the smallest counties in the state, but they have a big economic impact.
Calhoun County is home to globally recognized companies such as Starbucks, one of half a dozen roasters in the world, and Devro Inc., one of the world’s leading manufacturers of edible casings.
Agriculture has also been a key part of Calhoun County’s economy over the years.
The county’s location between the state capital of Columbia and the port of Charleston, along with ease of interstate travel, makes it a contender for attracting large corporations.
“Industry plays an important role in keeping taxes low in Calhoun County,” said John McLauchlin, Calhoun County Administrator and Director of Economic Development.
“Now that a major developer like Red Rock is investing in the Sandy Run Industrial Park with the construction of a major speculative building in the market, it puts Calhoun County at the forefront of industrial and manufacturing development,” McLauchlin said. .
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Bamberg County also carries a big stick when it comes to manufacturers.
Global companies as diverse as Phoenix Specialty Manufacturing, Collins Aerospace and Pegasus Home Fashions in Denmark have established manufacturing operations in the county.
Additionally, Bamberg County is home to many small manufacturers in forest products, agribusiness, and other manufacturing sectors.
The counties testify to the importance of manufacturing within their respective borders.
The industry is a driving force in the county’s economic machine and continues to be an important part of Calhoun County, even through the challenges of COVID-19.
“In the region before the pandemic, we were seeing a labor shortage,” McLauchlin said. “The pandemic has only made the shortage worse as many workers are reassessing their work/life balance and have changed jobs accordingly. The labor shortage continues to create a domino effect that is impacting on offer nationwide.”
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Fortunately, Calhoun County Industries has found ways to address labor shortages by partnering with local technical colleges,” McLauchlin said. “Colleges offer apprenticeship programs, customized in-house training programs and job fairs.
McLauchlin also said the pro-business culture created in Calhoun County has helped most industries in the county continue production during the pandemic. They were able to rebound quickly when other state and federal restrictions were lifted.
The Central South Carolina Alliance team remains a resource for county makers.
Manufacturing and industry are the tax base of the county.
About 17.4% of the county’s workforce is employed in manufacturing, and some of the county’s largest employers are manufacturers.
Calhoun County is attractive due to its proximity to the Columbia market, educated workforce, and training programs through ReadySC and Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College.
The county enjoys access to Interstate 26; a fully serviced infrastructure with utilities, rail and transport; small-town charm in a rural setting with big-city amenities; and a low cost of doing business with taxes and affordable labor.
The Central South Carolina Alliance helps recruit economic development to the area. The CSCA includes the counties of Orangeburg, Calhoun, Clarendon, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lexington, Newberry and Richland, and the city of Columbia.
According to the CSCA, the major employers in the county are:
- DAK Americas LLC — manufacture of plastics and resins, 430
- Devro Inc. — edible casings for meat packaging, 300
- Zeus Industrial Products Inc., Gaston plant — high performance polymer tubing for the aerospace, automotive, medical and other industries, 175.
- Zeus Industrial Products LLC, Columbia plant, 150 employees
- Starbucks Roasting Plant — roasts and distributes coffee, 101.
- Piscines Alaglas, construction of fiberglass pools, 100.
Agriculture also remains important to Calhoun County and beyond as it is one of the largest industries in the county and state.
The county has also identified Opportunity Zones that can help bring economic development opportunities to areas that need them most.
The federal Opportunity Zones program provides tax incentives to encourage long-term private investment in low-income communities.
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Workforce development is also central to economic development as the demand for skilled labor increases.
Calhoun County has made a few announcements related to industrial or economic development over the past year.
- Zeus industrial products hired 100 people at its Gaston plant.
The jobs are being added to meet growing customer demand as the economy opens up following the coronavirus pandemic.
Zeus jobs – mostly machine operators – pay $20 or more an hour.
Although the Zeus factory has a Gaston address, it is located in the Sandy Run area of Calhoun County.
- DAK Americas LLC invested in the general support of its operations at the Sandy Run plant.
The investment is expected to be over $1 million per year with total investments of $54 million for the period 2021-2025.
The investment follows the creation of 75 new jobs at the site in 2021 when DAK replaced contract employees with full-service employees
The 75 jobs have a salary range ranging from $35,000 to $100,000 per year with an average salary range of $47,000 per year.
- Red Rock Developments announced in April that it had opened a 497,952 square foot speculative industrial facility dockside in the Sandy Run Industrial Park. It is the first speculative building in the 761-acre park.
The building is expandable to 663,836 square feet, the largest expandable specification building ever on the market, according to company officials.
Calhoun County provided tax incentives for the construction of the specification building. The project was previously identified as Project Beach.
The building will be paid for entirely with private dollars. The name of the company has not yet been disclosed.
The 761-acre industrial park is located off US Highway 21 on Interstate 26 (exit 119).
The park has access to all utilities, Interstate 77 and Interstate 20.
Currently, the industrial park houses the 148,000 square foot factory of DAK Americas and Zeus Industries. About 580 acres of the park can be developed.
- Based in St. Matthews Tri-County Electric Cooperative the continued expansion of its broadband infrastructure to all cooperative customers.
The project will bring high-speed service to all tri-county members in the Santee, Elloree, Vance and Eutawville areas as well as Calhoun County.
Non-members will also have access if they are in the service area of the cooperative.
The electricity cooperative is investing a total of $50 million in its broadband project across its entire coverage area.
The cooperative started the project in December 2020 and expects it to be completed by June 2022.
The cooperative has a total of 18,000 meters and hopes that around 3,000 customers will be served by the end of the year.
The project was ahead of schedule and will be completed in approximately two years instead of the originally planned three years.
No new jobs were planned for either broadband project.
As in previous years, Calhoun County plans to honor industries by hosting an Industry Appreciation Golf Tournament in October.
County of Bamberg
The county’s largest employers represent a wide range of manufacturing, education, health care and other services, helping to stabilize the impact of COVID on the county.
“Our local industries have been impacted by COVID, but they have felt the impact less than businesses and the retail and hospitality industries,” said Kay Maxwell, vice president of marketing at Southern. Carolina Economic Development Alliance. “For our manufacturers, there has been a supply chain disruption, especially for companies like CTG2, which was just starting up and had some issues getting their materials in during the pandemic-caused transportation issues.”
“For Phoenix Specialty Manufacturing, they were impacted by the decline in the aerospace industry during COVID. But because of their diversity in manufacturing, they were actually much busier in the medical products business, making parts for ventilators “, said Maxwell.
Maxwell said the pandemic has caused greater labor issues for the retail and hospitality industries in counties like Beaufort and Horry, but the impact has been felt by all industries in this regard.
“In Bamberg County, it was more difficult for restaurants and retail businesses,” Maxwell said.
“All of our businesses are feeling the effects of inflation, especially rising gas prices which affect the cost of transporting raw materials and products,” she said.
The SCA also includes Hampton, Barnwell, Allendale, Colleton and Jasper counties.
According to the SCA, major employers in Bamberg County include:
- Phoenix Specialty — washers, shims and stampings, 122 employees.
- Collins Aerospace — heating nozzles, 112 employees
- Pegasus Home Fashions — home fashion, 107 employees
Industries making investment announcements or beginning operations in Bamberg County in the past year include:
- South Carolina Oak at Barrel LLC announced in September 2021 that it would invest $6.8 million and create 122 jobs at the former Black Water Barrels plant at 3914 Bamberg Highway in Bamberg County. The company would manufacture barrels for the bourbon, fine wine and whiskey industries.
Black Water Barrels announced in November 2019 that it was temporarily closing as part of a restructuring effort. The business never reopened.
The installation is in place and operational.
The company bills itself as the only female-owned cooperage in the state and one of the only female-owned cooperages in the country.
- Arnett Engineering Solutions LLCa manufacturer and supplier of pumps and valves, announced in August 2021 its intention to invest $2.5 million and create 19 new jobs.
The $2.5 million will be used to purchase the CrossRhodes Industrial Park building south of Bamberg on US 301. The building was previously occupied by Freudenberg, which was formerly Tobul Accumulators.
- Also in Bamberg County, the former Paw Country Club and Bamberg Golf and Sports Club reopened in December as River Birch Golf Course.