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HOLLY HILL -- Dozens of community, business and education leaders packed the Holly Hill Depot on May 31 to learn more about the economic impact the new Volvo automotive plant will have on the area.

“In terms of its operations here, over the next several years (Volvo) will employ about 2,000 people at the plant,” said David McNair, president of The McNair Group, a South Carolina-based public relations group working with Volvo. “In the next year, there will be about 1,600 people hired.”

McNair emphasized the number of people working in the plant itself represents only the tip of the economic iceberg.

“The auto industry has a higher ratio of supplier jobs than any other industry,” he said. “If you think about Boeing, Boeing has about 2-1/2 jobs in suppliers for every job at Boeing. Volvo will have about four times.”

McNair added, "For the number of 2,000 jobs here (at the Volvo plant), there will be about 8,000 jobs coming to our area due to suppliers. So, if we think Volvo is going to be big, the suppliers are going to be even bigger.”

Early projections indicate the plant and its suppliers will have an enormous economic impact on the area, he said.

“The annual economic contribution of Volvo (to this area) has been studied to be about $5 billion per year. To put that in perspective, the Medical University of South Carolina’s annual economic development is about $3.8 billion per year,” McNair said.

“Volvo’s going to arrive and, in its first year, exceed the entire economic impact of the Medical University of South Carolina."

The plant will also exceed the entire economic impact of tourism in the Lowcountry, which has an annual economic impact of $3.5 million to $3.6 million per year, he said.

The longer-term economic impact may be even more impressive. He used as an example the BMW plant that began operating near Spartanburg 20 years ago.

“When BMW arrived, it was almost identical to what Volvo is putting here,” McNair said. “(BMW) had about 1,800 employees and produced about 100,000 cars a year.

“Today, it’s 8,000 people at BMW, and then you’ve got all those suppliers around and, all together, it’s about 30,000 jobs in the Upstate area because of BMW.”

Holly Hill sits in a unique position to benefit from similar growth because of its location in development Zone 2 near the plant, McNair said. Volvo officials divided the area surrounding the plant into three economic impact zones.

Zone 1 encompasses the area within a five-mile radius around the plant.

Zone 2 encompasses the area between five to 20 miles from the plant’s boundaries.

Zone 3 extends 40 miles and further beyond the plant.

Although the first car isn’t expected to roll off the new Volvo assembly line until November 2018, McNair said initial screenings of potential employees has already gotten under way. He said anyone interested in joining the Volvo team should visit http://www.readysc.org/volvo/. Would-be Volvo workers should check the site frequently for the latest employment and training opportunities, McNair said.

“(Volvo looks) at proximity to the site,” McNair said. “So, if somebody is in that range – particularly that second circle range (Zone 2) – that’s really important to (Volvo) because they want to support the local economy.”

Volvo is also working with Lake Marion High School and Technology Center and other area high schools to modify their curriculums to better prepare students for future careers with the company and elsewhere in the automotive industry.

In addition to being a great company to work for, Volvo intends to be a “good neighbor” to the people of Holly Hill, eastern Orangeburg County and other surrounding areas, McNair said.

The company has demonstrated this core value frequently throughout its history, he said, adding that Volvo invented and patented the three-point restraint system that is now the standard “seat belt” on all vehicles. When studies demonstrated that the system significantly reduced injuries and deaths, Volvo gave the innovation to every other car company in the world, McNair said.

Volvo later did the same thing with emission-control technology that it developed and patented, he said, noting much of the technology will be incorporated into the new S60 sedan models to be produced exclusively at the new plant.

“Any S60 shipped anywhere in the world will be produced here,” McNair said.

Most of the cars produced at the plant will ship out by rail, which will hold down traffic on Interstate 26 and surrounding roadways, he said. The only cars that will go out by truck will be bound for the six Volvo dealers located within a 200-mile radius of the new plant, McNair said.

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Contact the writer: gwh903@yahoo.com.

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