Game-Changing Investments Will Help Grow Lowcountry Industrial Market

Key Takeaways

  • Major investments from automotive manufacturers Volvo and Mercedes-Benz were announced during the first half of 2015.  Together, the manufacturers will be investing $1 billion and creating 5,300 jobs over the next decade. 
  • Speculative and build-to-suit construction is strong throughout the market.
  • Industrial employment in the Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville, SC MSA is at record-high levels, surpassing pre-recession employment of 32,400 jobs.
  • Activity is up at South Carolina’s ports.  Container volumes at the Port of Charleston increased 14% during the South Carolina Ports Authority’s 2015 fiscal year.

Region Helps Grow South Carolina Automotive Manufacturing Cluster

Just two months after Mercedes-Benz Vans, a division of Daimler, made an announcement to invest $500 million in a new manufacturing facility in Charleston, another major automotive manufacturer, Volvo selected South Carolina for its first American plant.  The $500 million facility will be located in Berkeley County and is expected to create 2,000 new direct jobs over the next decade and up to 4,000 jobs by 2030.  The facility will serve to manufacture the latest generation Volvo models for sale in the U.S. and other markets.  Volvo expects to complete the first vehicle at the plant in 2018.

Volvo Cars considered over 60 U.S. locations before selecting the Berkeley County site.  Several factors played a role in attracting the manufacturer.  The Port of Charleston’s strength and experience with automotive exports, the presence of other global automotive manufacturers, a skilled labor force and pro-business environment helped attract the manufacturer to the region.  The facility will be located on 2,880 acres at the Camp Hall Tract off exit 187 along I-26.  The approximately 4,000 acres of land remaining at the site will be prepped for future industrial projects, which will likely include automotive-related users. 

The presence of Mercedes-Benz and Volvo in the Charleston region has the potential to grow automotive manufacturing in the region and throughout South Carolina.  In recent years, we have seen a growing trend of localization in which more suppliers are locating in closer proximity to their customers, thereby reducing transportation costs.   Automotive suppliers, as well as third-party logistics providers, are expected to flock to the region in an effort to better serve the new automotive manufacturers.  Given Charleston’s tight industrial market, a spur in construction activity is expected in both speculative and build-to-suit construction.

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