Orangeburg County is on the front lines of competition for success in the 21st century.

The county boasts a diverse industrial landscape of more than 100 firms, with manufacturers employing more than 8,200.

About 23 percent of the county's population works in manufacturing.

Existing industries include makers of electronics, riding lawn mowers, airliner components and chemicals.

Development Commission Executive Director Gregg Robinson cites three reasons Orangeburg County is a great place to do business, to work and to live: people, location and infrastructure.

"We have a hard-working certified workforce that is willing to work," Robinson said, noting manufacturing, distribution and assembly opportunities are all readily available. "That sets us apart. Manufacturing is going to be our bread and butter."

The county also is close to two major seaports, two class one rail lines in Norfolk Southern and CSX and available land that is more affordable than the Columbia or Charleston metropolitan areas.

The infrastructure is also present.

"The ability for us to now deliver the utilities -- water, sewer, gas, electricity and new broadband on key industrial locations on I-26 and I-95 -- this is the first time we can say that," Robinson said.

Robinson also said the county has a 75,000-square-foot speculative building that can be expanded to 350,000 square feet at the John W. Matthews Industrial Park at U.S. 301 and U.S. 176.

"We are pro-business as we offer creative solutions that are performance-based," Robinson said. "The more a company does for us, the more we do for them."

County economic development officials say Orangeburg County is making its mark on the national and international scene.

The number of prospects (company leaders taking a close look at Orangeburg County) is the highest in five years.

The county is focusing on recruiting more aerospace/aviation, advanced materials, agriculture/forestry, automotive, biotechnology, energy, headquarters/back offices, textiles, life science/chemicals and internet technology/research.

There are now 17 international companies representing 12 foreign countries within the county, with more than 5,000 employees, ranking in the top 10 for the state per capita, Robinson said.

The flags represented include Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

The county is also a leading player in the state's agricultural sector, ranking in the top 10 for many commodities.

Agricultural-based industries are also located in the county, including Dempsey Wood, Cox Industries, Bimbo Bakeries, Mars Petcare, Sims Bark, Orangeburg Pecan and SuperSod.

"Agriculture is a critical part to the growth of our county," Robinson said. "If you toss in timber with agriculture, you can clearly see the value of Cox Industries and Dempsey and other timber-related companies we have here."

Robinson said Inbra Chemicals, one of the latest companies to choose Orangeburg County, is a perfect example of agriculture and industry.

"By taking a plant, in this case soybeans, it makes products for the textile industry and, with the innovation of PVC piping, Inbra began the production of liquid and solid stabilizers using extracts from soybean oil and foaming agents," Robinson said.

"The new Orangeburg facility, which just completed construction on U.S. 21, will specialize primarily in plasticizer production with a focus on the polyvinyl chloride market. This is a great application of how agriculture and manufacturing come together locally."

Economic growth

Over the past five years, Orangeburg County has seen $474.8 million in investments and 853 new jobs created.

Most recently, the county has seen economic growth through a number of announcements and expansions.

These include:

  • The county's largest industry, Husqvarna, announced a $29.8 million expansion in May 2016, including the construction of a 513,000-square-foot distribution and warehouse facility. The investment is on top of the company’s commitment to invest $105 million at the plant through 2024.
  • China-based Labon, a technical fiber and textile manufacturer, established its first U.S. operation here in December 2016. The company is expected to invest $3.1 million and create 23 new jobs over the next five years.
  • IPS Packaging, a wholesale packaging distributor headquartered in Fountain Inn, announced in April 2016 it would build a new distribution center here. In addition to a $3.5 million investment, IPS said it would bring five new jobs to the community.
  • The Price Companies Inc., headquartered in Monticello, Arkansas, announced plans in July 2016 to build a new wood chip-processing facility near Holly Hill. The plant is to employ a minimum of 15 people and have a minimum capital investment of $32 million over the next five years.
  • GKN Aerospace's second Orangeburg County facility prepared for the manufacture of inlet lip skins for the Boeing 737 MAX and 777X. The company announced in June 2015 that it would invest more than $20 million in a new manufacturing facility adjacent to its existing plant at U.S. 301 and I-26.
  • The Interstate 95-U.S. Highway 301 interchange project was completed and open to traffic in the spring of 2017. The project includes the development of a full-access interchange where I-95 and U.S. 301 meet. Officials hope it will open the area to more economic development.
  • Three solar companies -- Tradewinds, Southern Current and National Renewable Energy Corp. (Narenco) Solar -- announced investments totaling about $234 million.
  • Dempey Wood Products announced in February 2017 it will invest $7 million and create 28 jobs at its Rowesville Road plant over the next five years. The company is investing in new dry kilns, a planer mill and upgrades to its sawmill.
  • The Okonite Co. announced in December 2015 it would invest $19.5 million and create at least 12 new jobs as part of the expansion. Along with adding one new insulating line and two new rewind packing lines, the company will be expanding its rewind building by 12,600 square feet and its manufacturing building by 49,000 square feet.

 

On the horizon

The state’s Joint Bond Review Committee in June 2017 approved $40.5 million in bonds to assist in site development, a rail line and roads in for Chinese tire manufacturer Wanli.

The company is proposing to invest up to $1 billion and create up to 1,200 jobs in an Orangeburg County plant.

The investment is projected to take place over an eight-year period.

Vanlead Group Co., which is the parent company of Wanli Tire, cited the region's “solid industrial foundations, strong scientific strength and highly efficient labor forces” as the reason for locating here.

The company also cited the state's central location on the Atlantic Coast and its more than 200 auto parts makers as instrumental in its decision.

Agriculture

"Agriculture is a very important sector of the economy of Orangeburg County and has been for many years," Orangeburg County Clemson Extension Agent Jonathan Croft said. 

According to the latest 2012 Census of Agriculture data, Orangeburg County is home to 1,056 farms with an average farm size of 268 acres.

The number of farms in Orangeburg County has increased from 1,002 in the 2007 census, though the average farm size has decreased from 287 acres in 2007.

The numbers are part of a decade-long trend of smaller farm sizes.

The total land farmed was 283,128 acres. That is down from 287,524 acres in 2007.

Orangeburg County ranked first in total receipts for crops and livestock in the state, according to the latest 2012 census data.

Agricultural census data is taken every five years.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service will mail questionnaires for the 2017 Census of Agriculture to farm and ranch operators in December 2017 to collect data for the 2017 calendar year.

NASS plans to release Census of Agriculture data, in both electronic and print formats, beginning in February 2019. Detailed reports will be published for all counties, states and the nation.

Crops brought in a total of $124.6 million (first in the state) and livestock brought in $106.9 million (fifth in the state), according to the data.

"Sale of crops and livestock not only provide income for the owners and direct employees of a farm but it also supports a larger network of business throughout the county," Croft said. "These include business involved in shipping and or processing of farm commodities, sales of equipment, sales of crop inputs, insurance and finical management (lending/accounting)."

Forestry is also a big player.

Croft said agriculture also helps to improve quality of life.

"When it comes to quality of life, local and U.S. agriculture provides residents with an abundance of food, fiber and construction materials, which allow us to live the lives we have today," Croft said. "Also when talking about quality of life in an area, we like to look at what opportunities there are for recreation."

"In Orangeburg and many of the coastal plain counties, there is an abundance of wildlife available for viewing and or hunting," Croft said. "Agriculture operations in the county provide many acres of crops that wildlife species thrive on, at the expense of the farmer."

Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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Business Reporter

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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