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Details emerge on $2B EV manufacturing project coming to Richland County

Christina Lee Knauss //March 6, 2023//

Details emerge on $2B EV manufacturing project coming to Richland County

Christina Lee Knauss //March 6, 2023//

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South Carolina beat out 74 other locations to win a $2 billion investment from Scout Motors Inc. for a new plant to produce electric SUVs and trucks in Blythewood, according to the Virginia-based company’s president and CEO Scott Keogh.

Requirements for the proposed new plant will also lead state officials to seek more than $1.2 billion in funding from the legislature for infrastructure projects including a new railroad bridge over Interstate 77, a new interchange, other road improvements and upgrades to utilities.

That and other details about the historic economic deal for Richland County were discussed Monday at an online roundtable featuring Keogh, Gov. Henry McMaster and South Carolina Secretary of Commerce Harry Lightsey.

“We needed a state ready to do business when we decided to relaunch and reintroduce Scout, and South Carolina proved it was ready from the moment conversations started,” Keogh said. “It was just over two months from the time we started conversation until the decision was made. The state was very professional from the beginning.”

Related content: Scout Motors to build $2B electric vehicle manufacturing plant in Richland County

Keogh said factors in choosing the manufacturing site in a Richland County-owned industrial park off I-77 included location, the available labor pool, prospective talent coming out of area colleges and universities, and the fact that South Carolina already is home to hundreds of companies that manufacture parts for the automotive supply chain.

The amount of Scout Motors’ investment and the project’s potential to create 4,000 or more permanent jobs would set all-time records as the largest economic development project in Richland County history, according to county officials.

Company officials hope to break ground on the Blythewood plant later this summer and begin production by the end of 2026.

The Scout plant will be located in the southwest quadrant of the industrial park along Blythewood Road. The Blythewood Industrial Site spans 1,600 acres, and the Scout plant is expected to occupy 1,100 acres, according to figures released by the Richland County Economic Development Office.

Keogh said the need to begin building more EVs at a faster pace as the country prepares to make the massive consumer pivot away from internal combustion engines made speed a crucial factor in the decision to pick South Carolina.

“Some states were still shuffling paperwork after 60 days – the moment and the market do not wait when it comes to EVs, we wanted to move fast and the state did it for us,” Keogh said. “We are already filing for building permits right now and we hope to start site prep and work on the project within weeks. This project is going to be extremely aggressive.”  

Before the plant can be built, massive work will also have to be done on infrastructure in the Blythewood area, prompting the request for funding from the legislature, McMaster said.

“You always have to spend money to make money, and time has shown here that large investments of the past were wise decisions,” McMaster said. “One of the biggest examples is investments we made when BMW came here in 1992. That project put South Carolina on the map when it came to the automotive industry. It transformed the Upstate, and now Scout has the potential to bring that kind of transformation to the Midlands.”

Richland County also plans to make significant investments to support the project including funding to upgrade the Blythewood Fire Station. A package of incentives being considered by County officials would include stipends for childcare for Scout employees.  Richland County Council is scheduled to give the total incentives package for Scout a third reading on March 21.

Supply-chain issues were also a large consideration for Scout officials in picking South Carolina, Keogh said. The state is home to more than 500 companies that manufacture parts for the automotive industry, and Lightsey said Scout’s announcement may prompt even more to move to the state.

South Carolina is also rapidly becoming part of what is being called the “Battery Belt,” with several large manufacturers of EV batteries planning facilities around the state. Keogh said no decision has been made yet about what type of battery will be used in Scout vehicles, but company officials do plan to select one made in the United States.

Originally produced by International Harvester from 1960 to 1980, Scout was the world’s first utility vehicle capable of both off-road and standard family travel, according to company materials.

Headquartered in Tysons, Va., Scout was formed to build all-electric trucks and SUVS rooted in the same tradition that made the original Scout an American icon, according to a news release. Scout Motors is an independent U.S. company backed by Volkswagen Group.