A combination of state and privately funded incentives, including sponsorship of the Family Circle Cup tennis tournament and temporary office space, organized by Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt, left, and Gov. Nikki Haley, helped secure Volvo’s planned manufacturing facility near Ridgeville, according to state documents obtained by the Charleston Regional Business Journal.

Charleston Regional Business Journal file photo

To recruit Volvo Car USA, South Carolina promised a three-year sponsorship and naming rights to the Family Circle Cup, up to $400,000 for temporary office space, up to $40,000 for a brand store in downtown Charleston and a 12-month product display at Charleston International Airport, according to documents obtained from the state Commerce Department.

Fundraising is ongoing to pay for the automaker’s tennis tournament sponsorship. Efforts included a four-day, private event within a tent on tournament grounds paid for by area companies’ sponsorships. Officials did not disclose how much money needed to be raised to cover costs of the Volvo Car Open played recently.

Those perks are in addition to about $200 million in state-provided incentives designated mostly for infrastructure projects, including site prep and a new interchange on Interstate 26 to serve the Volvo plant.

The Charleston Regional Business Journal obtained the Volvo incentives package and recruitment documents through a Freedom of Information Act request. Volvo is referred to as “Project Soter” in the documents — the original code name for the project before it became public.

The combined incentives were used to entice the Sweden-based automaker to choose Berkeley County for its future U.S. manufacturing site amid intense competition among other contenders, including Georgia.

A letter sent by Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt on May 28 to a Volvo executive — whose name was blacked out in the documents — outlined the extra incentives, such as the sponsorship, which were not included in the initial offer letter to the company.

Those additional incentives were originally discussed at an April 29 meeting in New York City, during which state officials made their final presentation to Volvo executives.

Less than two weeks later, Volvo chose South Carolina for its plant.

Volvo has promised to invest $600 million and create at least 2,000 jobs in the Lowcountry; the car plant is expected to bring additional suppliers and have a ripple effect on the region’s economy. Volvo’s first S60 sedan is anticipated to roll off production lines in late 2018 at the Berkeley County site — the only facility in the world to produce the new model. The automotive campus is currently under construction in the Camp Hall Commerce Park near Ridgeville.

Company leaders have cited various reasons for putting down roots in South Carolina, including the site’s proximity to the Port of Charleston, the airport and the interstate; a skilled workforce and state-run training program; a large tract of land on which it can build; collaboration among state agencies; and the success of other mega manufacturers in the state.

Incentives also played a role. Most of the non-infrastructure incentives were not funded by the state; rather, they were paid for by Lowcountry agencies working in conjunction with Commerce officials, Hitt said.

The state will spend tax dollars on projects — via incentives approved by the S.C. Coordinating Council for Economic Development — if the projects provide infrastructure for the surrounding area that might bring in future jobs or companies.

Regarding the other incentives, Hitt said it is typical for Commerce to work with businesses and agencies in the respective communities to fund some additional perks to persuade a company to locate in South Carolina — such as the brand store or tennis tournament sponsorship offered to Volvo.

“This is the largest rural project that we’ve ever encountered as a state. It is going into an area where there have never been these types of jobs before, which are expected to reach out to half a dozen counties and stretch beyond I-95,” Hitt said. “It will be a remarkable project in part of the state that often doesn’t get the chance to have something with this much impact.”


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