UNION COUNTY — A $100 million deal, a $290 million investment, and new jobs courtesy of a company’s “Made in USA” philosophy all contributed to the economic development of Union County in 2016.
As with any other community, economic development in Union County is about creating a climate attractive to businesses and industries looking to locate new operations/facilities here and/or expand existing ones. In recent years there has been a concerted effort by Union County, the City of Union, the Union County Development Board, the Union County Chamber of Commerce, the county’s other incorporated municipalities and other public and private organizations to create such a climate.
While that effort has been successful over the years, 2016 saw that effort enjoyed dramatic success beginning with a partnership between Standard Textile and Marriott International will create a total of 65 new jobs in Union County.
The new jobs were announced during a March 10 press conference at the Standard Textile plant at 100 Highpoint Drive attended by Marriott International Executive Chairman J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Standard Textile President and CEO Gary Heiman, South Carolina Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt, local government officials, and representatives of the local business community.
During the press conference it was announced that Marriott International had committed to provide “Made in USA” towels and bath mats in every guest bathroom in nearly 3,000 hotels across the United States, towels and bath mats made by Standard Textile. According to a press statement released by Marriott International and Standard Textile during the press conference, Marriott’s decision was “a first for the U.S. hospitality industry.” The press release stated that “buying ‘Made in USA’ towels and bath mats benefits U.S. manufacturing communities such as Thomaston, Ga., and Union, S.C., where manufacturing company Standard Textile is producing them with 100 percent cotton fiber grown in the U.S.”
The press release further stated that “Marriott’s commitment to buy ‘Made in USA’ guestroom terry products creates 150 new jobs in Standard Textile’s facilities in Thomaston and Union, as well as at the company’s Cincinnati headquarters and through its supply chain.”
The result of this partnership between Standard Textile and Marriott International was the subject of the press conference. In his address, Heiman said that 15 of the new jobs would be at Standard Textile’s Cincinnati headquarters. Of the remaining 135, he said approximately 65 will be at the Union County facility.
During his address, Heiman pointed out that Standard Textile had acquired its Union County facility in 2004, modifying, modernizing and expanding it into the “very, very successful plant it is today” that is “really making an impact on the community.” He said that using “advanced manufacturing techniques, smart manufacturing techniques” Standard Textile is producing a superior product at the Union County facility. As proud he is of that, Heiman said he is most proud of the positive impact Standard Textile has had on its employees and on the community it is part of.
The good news continued and got even better in June with the announcement that Union County had entered into a new agreement with Republic Services, LLC that would bring in $100 million in revenue to the county over the next 70 years.
The agreement was announced during the June 21 meeting of Union County Council when, in his report to council, Supervisor Frank Hart announced that the county had negotiated a new host agreement with Republic Services LLC. Hart said the agreement covers the continued operation and expansion of the Upstate Regional Landfill in the Cross Keys community which is operated by Republic Services. He said the agreement included the following terms:
• The agreement will last for the life of the landfill which is estimated to be 70 years or more.
• Republic will continue to pay the county host fees of approximately $1.5 million a year. Hart estimated that this will generate more than $100 million in revenue for the county over the life of the landfill.
• Republic will continue to accept waste from the county and its constituent municipalities at no charge to the county or the municipalities.
• Republic will give the county $40,000 a year for the next five years to a fund litter code enforcement officer.
• Republic will give the county $20,000 a year for the next five years to support upgrades and programming at the Union Campus of Spartanburg Community College.
During the meeting, Republic Services LLC Division Manager Tony Davies presented two checks totaling $60,000 to Hart. The checks, which were for $20,000 and $40,000, were the respective first installments on the $100,000 and $200,00 the company will pay the county over the next five years for the Union Campus of SCC and the litter code enforcement officer.
Hart said that under the county’s current agreement with Republic, the county receives host fees totaling approximately $1.5 million a year. That agreement, however, is scheduled to expire in five years, and Hart said that without the new agreement, the county would have lost those host fees. He said the loss of the host fees would have had a dramatic impact on the county’s budget.
With the new agreement in place, however, Hart said the fees would continue to be paid to the county which, along with its constituent municipalities, will also continue to have its waste disposed of in the landfill for free by Republic. Hart said these benefits, already in place in the current agreement, will continue to benefit the people of Union County. Those benefits include the litter code enforcement officer that Hart said would help clean up the county while the funds going to the Union Campus of SCC would help it provide the education and training the county needs to develop a highly-skilled workforce that industry needs.
There was more and even bigger good economic development news for the county in December when it was announced that “Project Wolverine” would invest $290 million in the county and create 100 new jobs.
During its Dec. 13 meeting, Union County Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution amending an existing fee-in-lieu of tax agreement and to approve an incentive agreement between the county and a company known only by the code name “Project Wolverine.” Under the terms of the agreement, the company will spend up to $290,400,000, but not less than $278,200,000 on the expansion of an existing industry and create at least 100 new, full-time equivalent jobs.
To facilitate this, the county will extend the existing fee-in-lieu of tax agreement with the company to cover the expansion which will allow the company to pay a lower property tax rate on the additions to its facility. The county will also provide the company with Infrastructure Improvement Credits covering its investment in the property and infrastructure. The county will also transfer three parcels of land with a total acreage of 3.56 acres northeast of the existing facility to the company along with part of Fire Station Road which runs along the southeastern edge of the county parcels.
In addition, the county also agrees the company leasing and expanding the county spec building as part of its expansion plans. The county sold the building in September to Agracel Inc. of Effingham, Illinois for $1.5 million, allowing it to recoup its investment in the construction of the facility as well as clear nearly $70,000.
While it had all the necessary utilities including power, water, sewer, and gas for industrial development and ready access to US 176, the spec building, which is located at 2 LSP Driver in Union Commerce Park, was just a 60,000 square-foot shell with a dirt floor. It also had an adjacent 60,000 square-foot building pad, and an additional 45,000 square feet of open land. The pad and the additional land are there to accommodate any potential industrial expansion that may occur.
Since the sale, work has been under way at the spec building, work that appears to be making us of the pad and additional land to complete the facility and more double its size.
While its identity is concealed beneath the code named assigned it, Project Wolverine has had a long relationship with Union County, a relationships that began a decade ago with the construction of a new manufacturing facility. A relationship that continued with an expansion of that facility and now looks to continue with yet another expansion.
According to the agreement approved by council, on Aug. 9, 2006, the company entered into a fee agreement with the county to invest $90 million in the construction of a manufacturing facility in Union County and create 130 new, full-time equivalent jobs. To facilitate the investment, construction of the facility, and the creation of those jobs, Union County and Spartanburg County entered into an agreement to develop a multi-county industrial park in Union County in which the facility would be located.
The agreement states that six years later, on Dec. 1, 2012, the company and the county into another fee agreement, this one involving the expansion of the facility built under the 2006 agreement. This new agreement called for the company to invest $50,926,000 in the expansion of the manufacturing facility and create 100 new, full-time equivalent jobs.
Also in December, council voted unanimously to authorize a loan of $300,000 from the Union County Economic Development Fund to the Bonham Fire Department to help the department build a new fire station at the corner of Oak Grove Road and US 176. The department will then repay the loan to the county at the rate of $42,857 a year for seven years.
Supervisor Frank Hart said the loan was part of the county’s efforts to facilitate Project Wolverine. Hart pointed out that the county had acquired the department’s old fire station which was located on SC 18. He said it is part of the the property the county will transfer to Project Wolverine as part of the incentive package. Since the county acquired the site from the department, Hart said that with the loan the county is helping it build its new station and relocate its operations and equipment there.
Bonham’s firefighting equipment and fire trucks are currently located in the old school bus shop off SC 18. The department provides fire protection for the residents and businesses of the Bonham Community, including Project Wolverine.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.