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Chinese tire maker planning $1B investment in Orangeburg County

Manufacturing
Chuck Crumbo
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A China-based tire manufacturer expects to invest $1 billion and build a new plant in Orangeburg County  that would employ about 1,200 workers.

The Wanli Tire US Plant project would be constructed in two phases over a span of eight years, according to a press release on the website of the tire maker’s parent, Guangzhou Vanlead Group Co.

A project Investment Letter of Intent was signed in April by Fu Shoujie, chairman of the Vanlead Group and Alan Daniel Young, executive director of the Coordinating Council for Economic Development at the South Carolina Department of Commerce, the release added.

“The Investment Letter of Intent signed with the state of Carolina this time marks that Wanli Tire US project has taken a substantive step,” the release stated.

S.C. Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt has asked the state Joint Bond Review Committee to borrow $40.5 million to develop infrastructure like building a rail line and roads for the plant site, officials said.

However, state and local economic development officials declined to say that the Wanli Tire project was a done deal.

“We are only able to confirm that this is another step in the process to potentially secure a company, but because there are still a number of details that need to be worked out and both parties must still go through corresponding approval processes it is too early to confirm anything further,” S.C. Commerce Department spokeswoman Adrienne Fairwell said in an email to the Columbia Regional Business Report.

“Given the scope and scale and magnitude of this project, there are a lot of moving parts,” said Gregg Robinson, executive director of the Orangeburg County Development Commission. “And, so we have to be hypersensitive with these moving parts to make sure that we keep everything moving in the right direction, number one, and, number two, make sure that we don’t get people too excited too quickly.”

The project, though, is significant, Robinson said, noting that the other manufacturing deals the state has borrowed money for site development work include BMW in the Spartanburg County and Boeing and Volvo plants in the Charleston area.

The Vanlead press release said that the project would be built into two phases over eight years. The first phase would be a radial tire plant for consumer tires and the second phase would be for making truck tires. The plant would have the capacity to produce million car tires annually, according to China Daily.

The plant’s tentative location was not disclosed.

The Orangeburg County tire plant would be a major step in the company’s efforts to grow its brand on the global market.

China Daily reported that in 2016 Vanlead became the first China-based tire manufacturer to pass tests of a German testing company, TUV Rhineland, an independent firm that certifies the safety and rule-compliance of products.

“As a national enterprise representative of Chinese auto parts industry, we have acquired the capability to participate in the real world competition with accumulations and innovations in more than 20 years,” Shoujie said. “We are going to build our own brand and our own channels in central region of world industrial development.”

In the release, the company cited South Carolina’s “solid industrial foundations, strong scientific strength and highly efficient labor forces.” It also noted that the state is home to BMW and more than 200 international auto parts suppliers.

South Carolina is the nation’s leading tire maker with the capacity of making 89,000 tires a day. Wanli would join the state’s growing tire cluster that includes Michelin, Bridgestone, Continental, Trelleborg and Giti.

Guangzhou Vanlead Group, founded in 2001, is a state-owned large industrial enterprise in Guangzhou province, specializing in the fields of rubber tire, salt chemical and fine chemicals. The group has owned 67 totally invested or holding subsidiaries, according to the company’s website.

 

Reach Chuck Crumbo at 803-726-7542.

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