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Scout Motors deal finally puts Richland County in the driver’s seat

Christina Lee Knauss //March 22, 2023//

Scout Motors deal finally puts Richland County in the driver’s seat

Christina Lee Knauss //March 22, 2023//

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Gov. Henry McMaster met with officials from Scout Motors Inc. to sign legislation and a performance agreement cementing the EV startup's $2B investment in Richland County. (Photo/Christina Lee Knauss)

With the stroke of a pen, the economic future of Richland County and South Carolina’s Midlands was transformed on March 20.

At a State House ceremony, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster signed legislation nicknamed the “Scout Motors Bill” which approves more than $1.3 billion in state funding to boost infrastructure in support of the $2 billion investment Scout Motors Inc. is making to establish operations in Blythewood.

The Virginia-based EV startup hopes to break ground later this summer on 1,100 acres in the Blythewood Industrial Park where it will manufacture electric trucks and SUVs. Company officials hope to begin production on the vehicles by 2026.

The Scout project, announced early in March, is the largest economic investment in the history of Richland County and finally gives the Midlands a presence in the state’s powerful automotive sector. The industry in South Carolina first took off more than 30 years ago with BMW’s arrival in the Upstate and continued to grow with the arrival of Volvo and Mercedes Vans in the Charleston area. Most recently, Oshkosh Defense announced plans to build the next generation of mail delivery vehicle in Spartanburg County, while part of the Proterra electric bus — a city bus-sized vehicle — is assembled in Greenville. BMW Manufacturing alone has a $26.7 billion economic impact on the state, according to the latest study, released this week by the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina.

The Midlands region, however, never got a piece of the automotive pie until Scout came calling in December of 2022. The company’s officials have said they were impressed with how quickly the deal with Richland County came together, and named the area’s location and availability of a large workforce as factors that cemented their decision.

Scott Keogh, president and CEO of Scout, said the company chose Richland County over 74 other sites nationwide.

“We were looking for a place to call home, and Richland County proved to be the right place,” Keogh said. “We’re reviving an iconic American brand that will make a rugged American truck designed for the American market, and it’s going to be made right here in South Carolina. The bold vision of Scout matched up well with the bold vision of this state.”

After the first signing ceremony inside, the crowd moved outside to the south steps of the State House where vintage Scout vehicles had been positioned around the grounds. There, McMaster and company officials signed the official Project Development Agreement to bring Scout to the Midlands.

State funding will be used for a host of infrastructure improvements to support Scout’s operations, including construction of a railroad bridge across Interstate 77 and a new highway interchange to route traffic toward the Scout plant without overcrowding downtown Blythewood.

Richland County Council also gave final approval March 21 for a massive incentives package for the Scout project, including the land for the site, a 40-year fee in lieu of tax agreement, child care credits for Scout employees and upgrades to the Blythewood fire station.

“This is a transformational breakthrough not only for the state but for Richland County,” said Richland County Council Chairman Overture Walker. “This is going to have an impact on our county for generations to come.”