- Associated Press - Thursday, May 28, 2015

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - The CEO of Volvo Cars of North America said Thursday that infrastructure, a business-friendly climate and a capable workforce were reasons Volvo selected South Carolina over 60 sites nationwide for its first North American assembly plant.

“Here in Charleston and South Carolina we have found our American manufacturing home,” said Lex Kerssemakers, noting that choosing the state for the $500 million plant comes 60 years after the manufacturer first started importing vehicles into this country.

About 100 people were on hand as Kerssemakers, Gov. Nikki Haley and other officials signed an incentive agreement bringing the plant to the state.

The state offered about $200 million in incentives to lure the plant to a site in Berkeley County about 30 miles northwest of Charleston. As part of the package, a new interchange to serve the plant will be built on Interstate 26.

Kerssemakers noted that, since the company announced it selected South Carolina earlier this month, about 7,500 people have logged onto a website expressing interest in working at the plant. He said vehicles made in South Carolina will be sold domestically and exported through the Port of Charleston.

Groundbreaking for the plant will be this fall and the company expects the first cars to roll off the assembly line in 2018. Eventually Volvo hopes to employ as many as 4,000 workers at the plant.

Kerssemakers said the company has not yet decided which models will be built at the new plant but the company wants to increase domestic sales. “We have a very ambitious plan to increase sales from last year’s 57,000 units to 100,000 cars and then continue to grow,” he said.

Haley said later she thinks South Carolina workers made the difference in the Volvo decision.

“We have proven time and time again we build things and we build them well,” she said. “Our workforce builds it with pride, loyalty and work ethic and I think at the end of the day the people of South Carolina won this deal for us.”

Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt added that Volvo representatives also visited other manufacturing plants across South Carolina and to find out about the work ethic of employees.

“This is a huge risk for Volvo in that you are investing a half a billion dollars and this is going to be your launch of made-in-America cars,” Haley added. “We appreciate the fact they are letting us grow with them. It’s been done before. We saw with BMW it was roll out the first car and now look at them.”

BMW opened its assembly plant in Greer, South Carolina, more than 20 years ago. A few miles down the road from the plant site Boeing has a 787 aircraft assembly plant.

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