When BMW announced, in 2008, plans to invest an additional $750 million in its Upstate South Carolina auto factory, people took notice. Not only was the prospect of adding 500 new jobs great news, but the expansion would do more than that – and, it didn’t have anything to do with higher or lower auto insurance rates.
At the time, BMW’s largest single investment in a state where it’s had a manufacturing presence since 1993, would allow the German automaker to produce three different models, the X3, X5 and X6, while increasing production capacity to an estimated 240,000 units by 2012.
The facilities, located in Spartanburg County, are BMW’s only assembly operations in North America. However, the company’s massive expansion highlights South Carolina’s stature as a major center of the automotive industry. Adding a new 1.5 million-square-foot plant to the company’s existing 2.5 million-square-foot Spartanburg County campus, the project also includes a 300,000-square-foot expansion of the current paint shop.
Opening in October 2010, the new facilities increased BMW Manufacturing Co.’s overall investment to $4.6 billion in Spartanburg County, where the company employs more than 7,000 workers. The opening came just as the manufacturer launched its next-generation BMW X3 Sports Activity Vehicle. While the vehicle will be made exclusively in South Carolina, it will be sold around the globe.
One of the main reasons the German company initially chose the state of South Carolina for its facilities was its superior transportation infrastructure, which includes an interstate highway system with close proximity to international airports and the Port of Charleston.
In addition to the availability of a deep-water port being a huge benefit, BMW was also attracted to the state’s skilled workforce. And, the company’s massive expansion in South Carolina will have a tremendous impact on the region and a ripple effect throughout the entire state that will surely entice new suppliers to move into the areae and existing suppliers to grow. The end result will be a lot of new jobs, according to Joe Taylor, South Carolina Secretary of Commerce.
But, South Carolina’s economic development isn’t limited to BMW’s expansion. The state is turning into a job-generating machine that has drawn other automotive-related manufacturing, which employs over 30,000 people in South Carolina with operations for companies such as Michelin North America, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, Robert Bosch, Daimler AG, American LaFrance, Honda South Carolina and Caterpillar.
The investments from these companies have, in turn, increased the proliferation of hundreds of related component manufacturers and suppliers in the state to serve them.
Michelin North America, which first committed its manufacturing operations to the state in 1973, and established its headquarters in Greenville in 1984, produces tires in six of its 12 facilities throughout the state, while employing about 7,800 workers, according to Steve Evered, Michelin’s director of government affairs.
As with BMW, one of the major factors that drew Michelin to South Carolina was access to the Port of Charleston, where Michelin can load and ship its tires manufactured in the state to customers around the globe.
While the automotive industry is constantly evolving, auto insurance continues to be a necessity if you want to drive on the state’s streets and highways.
Do you think South Carolina has earned the reputation of being an auto manufacturing giant? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.