In Chinese, Jushi means “giant stone,” which in Chinese culture forms the backbone of heaven and Earth. For Richland County, Jushi means a giant boost for the economy, and could serve as the backbone for future industrial recruitment to the county’s new 900-acre industrial park.
Jushi USA will break ground Thursday for a $300 million fiberglass manufacturing plant in the Pineview Industrial Park at the foot of Shop Road near Interstate 77. The company will hire 400 workers for the facility, and by 2021, according to plant president Drew Walker, the firm plans to build an identical plant next door that would employ another 400.
But unlike more heralded economic development announcements such as Volvo in Berkeley County or Continental in Sumter County, the Jushi deal, despite its size, is flying a bit under the radar.
“This is a heavy process company,” said Richland County economic development director Jeff Ruble, meaning the manufacturing plant requires lots of employees.
“But the company doesn’t have a lot of name recognition,” he said. “If it was GE, people would be jumping up and down.”
State Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt called the announcement the biggest in Richland County since Union Camp in 1981. He said the lack of large industrial sites had been a hindrance in the past.
“This was a big hit,” he told The State on Friday. “There have been challenges there. But (Richland County officials) are becoming more attuned to what it takes to win.”
World’s largest fiberglass manufacturer
Jushi, founded 25 years ago, is headquartered in Zhejiang, China. It is the world’s largest fiberglass manufacturer and, according to its website, “has attained the leadership position in the global fiberglass industry in terms of output, technology, market and profit.”
Jushi Group – which includes Jushi China and Jushi USA – has total assets of about $3 billion, 8,000 employees and a production capacity of more than one million tons of fiberglass, the company said.
Jushi Group produces E-glass and C-glass fiberglass products and a complete range of reinforcement fiberglass products including rovings, which are spools of fiberglass thread; chopped strands; stitched combo mats and chopped strand mats; powder and emulsion chopped strand mats; woven rovings and electrical yarn; and fabrics in more than 100 product categories and more than 1,000 specifications, according to the company.
Those materials are used in products that include bathtubs, speedboats, and lighter parts for automobiles and airplanes. The company’s largest clients are Siemens, BMW, Ford and Boeing.
“Fiberglass is the product of the future,” Walker said. “So in Richland County, we will be making the future.”
Fiberglass is the product of the future. So in Richland County, we will be making the future.
Drew Walker, president Jushi’s Richland County plant
The products are sold in 30 provinces in China and exported to more than 100 countries, the company says, with exports accounting for 50 percent of the company’s total sales.
Jushi in 2012 established a distribution center in Columbia, capitalizing on its proximity to the Port of Charleston and its central location in the Southeast.
The company has four fiberglass production facilities: Three plants in China and one in Egypt. And it boasts subsidiaries in South Africa, South Korea, Italy, Spain, France, Canada, India, Singapore, Japan, the United States and Hong Kong, according to the company.
The Pineview plant will be the company’s first production facility in the United States, according to Walker, an Englishman working for a Chinese company in South Carolina.
The facility will exclusively produce fiberglass rovings and chopped glass fiber for thermoplastics, Walker said. When completed two years from now, it will be the largest glass fiber rovings furnace, as the plants are called, in North America, overshadowing those owned by more recognizable rivals such as Owens-Corning.
The plant will produce 80,000 tons a year of the super-light fiberglass thread. The second plant will produce another 80,000 tons annually. Workers are expected to make $16 to $20 a hour.
“We really wanted to make a footprint in the U.S.,” said Walker, a veteran fiberglass production executive who was president and CEO of AGY fiberglass in Aiken for 10 years. “Instead of U.S. jobs going to China, we’re bringing Chinese jobs to South Carolina.”
Attention to detail
Walker said company executives were impressed with South Carolina and Richland County for a number of reasons:
▪ Convenient access to the Port of Charleston, which is essential for the import of materials and export of finished product.
▪ As the first tenant in the county’s new industrial park, there is plenty of room for expansion.
▪ A generous incentive package, Walker said, including a fee in lieu of property taxes, donation of the land and money from the state. The incentive package exceeded $7 million, according to the commerce department.
▪ Access to rail. A rail line cuts directly through the 900-acre park.
▪ Proximity to suppliers and customers. The rovings will be used by auto, aerospace and other manufacturers, of which there are many in South Carolina, although the products will be sold throughout North America. Also the plant will receive one of its key ingredients, silica, from a supplier based in the Carolinas.
▪ South Carolina’s good “business climate.” South Carolina has long marketed its nonunion workforce, worker training programs and low taxes to industrial prospects.
▪ South Carolina is used to dealing with multi-national companies, with firms from 20 countries.
▪ And the county is building a $25 million extension to Shop Road, which will provide both access to the industrial park and ease some of the traffic on Garners Ferry Road. The first phase of the project will be completed in about a year, Ruble said.
There was focus, clear direction and a simple approach. Those things set South Carolina apart.
Drew Walker, president Jushi’s Richland County plant
But Walker said what sealed the deal was the willingness of state and county officials to go the extra mile to make certain the Chinese firm was able to navigate the intricacies of establishing its first plant in a new country, from permitting to networking.
And the Department of Commerce had Chinese-speaking staff members and were attuned to the Chinese culture.
“There was a high level of attention to detail and a commitment to action – doing what they say they are going to do and follow-through,” Walker said. “There was focus, clear direction and a simple approach. Those things set South Carolina apart.”
For Ruble, the new plant will, hopefully, kick-start a new age of industrial recruitment in Richland County, with other firms following the fiberglass giant.
“I think that’s absolutely the case,” he said. “There’s something to be said for momentum.”
About Jushi Group
1 - Global ranking of the Chinese company among fiberglass producers
8,000 - Employees worldwide
400 - Employees at the Pineview plant when Phase One opens in two years.
800 - Employees when a second line is opened in 2021
$300 million - Construction cost of the plant
$16 - Starting wage for employees