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Haier to break ground on expansion Thursday

UPDATE: New Haier release syncs with 'Project Picture'

Posted: August 13, 2015 5:41 p.m.
Updated: August 14, 2015 1:00 a.m.
Kershaw County Economic Development Office website/

Haier America’s Camden plant, off Black River Road near I-20. The company plans to make a “major economic announcement” with S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley on Thursday. All signs point to Haier’s plans to be “Project Picture,” a $72 million, 410-job expansion.

UPDATED INFORMATION:

New information released by a public relations firm working with Haier America cements the theory its proposed expansion is “Project Picture.” Kershaw County Council used Project Picture as a code name when it passed a recent resolution and first reading of an ordinance concerning a fee in lieu of taxes (FILOT) deal. FILOT agreements are a common practice used to encourage industries to open or expand in the county.

Thoughts the Haier expansion is Project Picture began to form when the company released a statement saying it would make a “major economic announcement,” to include a ceremonial groundbreaking, at its plant on Thursday at 3 p.m. with S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley. Haier executives and local officials are scheduled to attend as well. County officials would not confirm Haier is Project Picture after the company’s initial statement.

Council’s Project Picture votes stated the project would constitute a $72 million investment resulting in 410 new full-time jobs in Kershaw County. A longer statement released Monday by Cole Stevens, communications manager for 50,000feet Inc., a Chicago-public relations firm, appeared to leave little doubt Haier and Project Picture are one and the same.

“The $72 million investment signals Haier’s ongoing commitment to South Carolina economic development, adding significant square footage to an existing Haier facility to accommodate growing demand,” Stevens wrote. “Haier will be constructing a 250,000-square-foot addition to its existing 300,000-square-foot facility, creating 410 jobs in the next five years.”

The Chinese company is a worldwide leader in the manufacture and sale of appliances and electronics.

“The expansion allows the company to increase annual production considerably, positions the global leader in appliances and consumer electronics at the forefront of American design and manufacturing and enables Haier to serve the trade and consumers with reduced fulfillment time and quick servicing,” Stevens wrote. “The expansion is just one example of Haier's growth in U.S. markets. The company is innovating on its existing products and releasing new products that satisfy Haier's brand and business objectives of offering whole-home solutions to a range of U.S. consumers, at various stages of life.”

The Chronicle-Independent will be at Thursday’s announcement and provide full coverage in Friday’s edition.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Haier America plans to make a “major economic announcement” at 3 p.m. Thursday at its Camden plant. Haier said company officials will be joined by S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley and other state and local officials for the event, which will include a groundbreaking.

County officials declined to confirm or deny Haier’s announcement is tied to “Project Picture.” Kershaw County Council passed a resolution and first reading of an ordinance by title only Tuesday concerning Project Picture, involving an economic development expansion of more than $72 million resulting in 410 new full-time jobs in Kershaw County.

The ordinance, which must pass on second and third readings and include a public hearing, would allow a “fee-in-lieu-of-taxes” agreement with Project Picture, an incentive often extended to industries to encourage economic development. 

Council Chairman Julian Burns said he will speak at Thursday’s event, adding the announcement is the result of the efforts of many people at the state and county levels, including Haley and S.C. Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt.

“This just shows all the hard work that’s been done by Governor Haley, by Bobby Hitt and by (County Administrator) Vic Carpenter, (County Economic Development Director) Peggy McLean and (Economic Development Marketing and Administrative Manager) Lauren Reeder here in the county,” Burns said after Haier’s announcement of Thursday’s event.

Haier manufactures electronics and appliances. It’s global headquarters are in Qingdao, Shandong province, China. According to a 1999 Chronicle-Independent article, the company began as the Qingdao General Refrigeration Company. The article reported the company was close to failure in 1984, but bought out another Chinese appliance company in 1991 and became Haier. In 1999, Haier purchased 110 acres in the Steeplechase Industrial Park.

Haier’s 300,0000-square-foot Camden facility opened in early 2000 as the first Chinese manufacturing plant in North America. The company’s initial investment was $30 million resulting in 300 jobs. Haier laid off 26 employees in 2003 and another 96 in 2004, but expanded the Camden facility in 2007 to add a line to manufacture refrigerators and freezers. The $6 million expansion resulted in 128 new jobs for a net gain of six employees. In 2013, Haier established a research and development center at its Camden plant, but it is unclear how much the company invested in doing so or whether it added more jobs to the plant. That year, Haier Camden Plant President Joe Sexton was honored as an Ambassador for Economic Development by the S.C. Department of Commerce.

In July, Haier announced it is also opening a $2.8 million Technology and Design Center in Evansville, Ind. Haier’s American headquarters is in Wayne, N.J.

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