A Chinese recycling company announced in March it was planning to invest $52 million and create 200 new jobs over the next five years in Orangeburg County.
Ecomelida Inc. will locate in the 200,350-square-foot former Federal Mogul Friction Products plant at 2084 Rowesville Road.
Ecomelida is the U.S. subsidiary of Zhangzhou Sanlida Environmental Technology Corporation, an importer and recycler of waste paper and plastic.
The company will separate pulp, plastic and aluminum from soft drink cartons and other products for use in products such as tissue paper, plastic flowers, coated plastic products and clothes hangers.
Plant operations was expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2018. Hiring for the positions was to begin in the third quarter of 2018.
The company will be looking to fill professional, managerial and skilled positions. Entry-level wages will average $15 to $18. Managerial wages will be above $20 an hour.
Ecomelida Madam Chairman Nancy Xi Cheng said the company will seek to recycle soft drink and juice containers.
"We are dealing with soft drinks because you know everyone every day needs a soft drink," Cheng said. "When they are finish drinking, they just throw them away. In fact, they have a special kind of material which causes a lot of pollution."
"I think we are the first company that is dealing with that special kind of material," Cheng continued. "I think it is very good for the environment."
This will be the company's first U.S plant and will serve as its U.S. headquarters.
Construction is underway at the company's plant as 2019 begins with projected equipment delivery the third quarter of 2019 and operations either the fourth quarter of 2019 or the first quarter of 2020.
Cheng and company Executive Vice President Yang Huang praised the county and city's pro-business attitude and its transportation infrastructure. The site has rail access.
Huang noted the community’s “friendly business atmosphere" and the “sporty government officials.”
"I think there are a lot of benefits we can enjoy here,” he said.
The company also plans to expand the former Federal Mogul building by 496,600 square feet. The plant sits on about 44 acres.
Huang said the company looked at a number of other states before settling on South Carolina and Orangeburg.
"I still am very impressed at how the efficient the state of South Carolina, the county and the city work,” he said.
The company has received local property tax incentives as well as state incentives.
The Coordinating Council for Economic Development has approved job development credits related to the project.
A $750,000 Rural Infrastructure Fund grant was awarded to Orangeburg County to assist with the cost of site preparation and building construction. The grant will primarily go toward upgrading the facility's utility infrastructure, including water, wastewater and electrical delivery systems.
Orangeburg County Development Commission Executive Director Gregg Robinson said Ecomelida was initially attracted to the John W. Matthews Jr. speculative building.
"You never know where leads will come from," Robinson said.
Robinson praised the Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities for making the project happen.
"We want you to know that we are very user friendly," Orangeburg County Council Chairman Johnnie Wright told company officials Wednesday evening. "We will do all we can to make sure that the transition is as smooth as possible."
"We want you to succeed because if you succeed, that means we succeed," Wright continued. "We want all of us to make sure that this marriage works. We don't like divorces."
"Today is our first day that we are married and I say ‘Yes, I do,’" Cheng said, to laughter.
"We are very much committed to building high-quality, skilled labor," Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler said. "We are committed to building a robust economy to develop the skilled labor. We are so happy that you are here."
Orangeburg County Administrator Harold Young said, "Ecomelida will not only provide jobs for our citizens, but also play a role in saving our planet.”
The facility has been vacant since Federal Mogul closed its doors in May 2016. The Federal-Mogul plant manufactured brake pads.
Prior to Federal Mogul, the building was occupied by Kirsch Window Treatments, which produced custom mini-blinds, vertical blinds, pleated shades and window toppers.
According to county property records, Ecomelida paid about $2.5 million for the facility.
Ecomelida has plants in Spain and Taiwan. Its headquarters is in Xiamen, China. Companywide, Ecomelida employs about 300.