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Utilities Help Ready Sites For Industry

Rock Hill Economic Development

The German automotive adhesive manufacturer Coroplast announced Tuesday that Rock Hill will be the site of its first U. S. plant. Over the next five years, the company plans to invest $12 million and create 150 jobs in York County, S. C. Economic development leaders say it takes a lot of work to recruit companies like Coroplast. And sometimes, utility companies step up to help. 

The biggest hurdle economic development leaders face is something they call “product development.” In this case, the “product” is buildings and building sites. When a company looks at an area for a potential new facility, it wants to see plans for how a property could be developed, says Duke Energy spokesperson Lisa Parrish.

“You can’t bring an industry to a large parcel of land and say, ‘imagine this parking lot over here, you could build the big industry here, maybe we could put in a road for you. Maybe there will be an international airport close by…’ No. They have to have plans; they need an assessment. They want a site that is ready to go,” she says.

Parrish says that’s why her company created the Site Readiness Program back in 2006. Since then, it’s identified 100 potential industrial sites in North and South Carolina. One of the sites Duke picked this year is a 162-acre property in York County, just behind the South Carolina Welcome Center on I-77. The Site Readiness Program will help make the land “shovel-ready.” That means assessing and surveying the site, generating land-use and preliminary design plans. The process takes about four months. Then, a national marketing team will help get the word out to potential industrial buyers. York County economic development director Mark Farris says the Site Readiness Program and others like it are a big help.

“It basically gives us some additional information about parcels of property that we believe hold great potential for development, and yet we don’t know enough about it to start marketing it,” he explains.

Some industries prefer to look for existing buildings that can be tailored to suit their needs. So, economic development groups will build speculative buildings. That can be risky, and it costs a lot of money, but it paid off in York County with that German automotive adhesives maker, Coroplast. Farris explains two utilities helped pay for the building. 

“York Electric Co-op gave us almost a million dollars, and Comporium Communications gave us $200,000 to build this speculative building,” he says.

The building was completed last November. Five months later, Coroplast signed a contract to buy it. Farris says the deal would likely never have happened without support from the utilities. For their part, the York Electric Cooperative and Comporium Communications get South Carolina state tax credits. Duke Energy pays for its Site Readiness Program without similar incentives. The company says new industries have a multiplying effect on communities. But let’s not forget: big manufacturers use a lot of electricity.