Joshua Lloyd, Morning News
FLORENCE, S.C. – The past year proved to be huge for business investment across the Pee Dee region with more than $750 million in capital investment in announcements in 2017.
Many of these capital investments entail expansions of existing industry and come with a guarantee of local job creation – more than 1,600 over the next half decade.
Some of the largest projects announced this year in Florence County include a $40 million GE Healthcare expansion, a $79 million Ruiz Foods expansion and a $35 million McCall Farms expansion.
The largest investment announcement by far in 2017 was the $470 million upgrade to WestRock, which will preserve about 400 jobs at the Florence paper-mill.
Harbor Freight Tools announced a 1 million square-foot expansion to its East Coast distribution center in Dillon County. That expansion will bring more than 500 new jobs to the area and raise the company’s total investment in South Carolina to more than $200 million.
Fiber Industries is revamping an old Darlington County textile plant with a $30 million investment at the Palmetto facility off of McIver Road that is expected to create at least 135 new jobs.
Joe W. King , executive director of the Florence County Economic Development Partnership, said 2017 was a good year for the area and bodes well for the future of the local economy.
“At the end of 2016, we felt 2017 would be good just by all the projects we had working through the pipelines, and it was a good year,” he said. “Most announcements were expansions. There’s a lot of glamor to bring in someone new, but it’s equally important to take care of those already here doing business. We don’t overlook their value.”
King added that 2018 will also be a great year for economic development in Florence County, as several projects are lined up to be announced in the first and second quarters of the year.
Another considerable note for the Pee Dee’s business community is the beginnings of the Dillon Inland Port, a 3,400-acre industrial park situated between Dillon and Latta near the North Carolina border.
The port will operate much like a marine port, except containers will be loaded onto trains rather than ships. CSX will serve the Dillon site, running overnight service to the Port of Charleston.