Projected 250 jobs coming to Midlands community rocked by recent job losses

“I’m from Fairfield County and it’s a grim day.”

SC Public Service Commission criticized SCE&G Tuesday for spending billions on a nuclear project, then walking away from the partially built reactors.
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SC Public Service Commission criticized SCE&G Tuesday for spending billions on a nuclear project, then walking away from the partially built reactors.

A Midlands community rocked by recent job losses received some good news Tuesday.

Healthcare U.S. Co., a Chinese-based memory-foam mattress manufacturer, announced plans to establish new operations in Fairfield County and create up to 250 new jobs.

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster and the S.C. Department of Commerce announced the company plans to invest $45 million to open a 650,000-square-foot facility in Winnsboro in the first quarter of 2019. Hiring will begin early next year, according to a press release.

The state’s Coordinating Council for Economic Development awarded Fairfield County a $300,000 grant to assist with the costs of building renovations.

Fairfield County has suffered several recent blows — the cancellation of the V.C. Summer nuclear project multi-billion-dollar expansion, Walmart’s closure and the Uniroyal mill’s shutdown. Fairfield Memorial Hospital also is set to shutter its doors Dec. 18.

Another more than 100 jobs were thought to be in peril this summer, until Element Electronics received a critical exemption from tariffs levied by the Trump administration.

“Any sort of development, any sort of new industry is always good,” McMaster said Tuesday. “Fairfield County is one that is always wide open for development and for investment, particularly with the decline of the V.C. Summer plant. ... We are hoping the loss of that progress is not going to be permanent.”

McMaster also pointed to federal legislation, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-Charleston, that he hopes will help revive rural areas, including Fairfield County, that struggle with relatively high unemployment and job losses despite the state’s recent economic gains.

Earlier this year, McMaster announced the submission of 135 Opportunity Zones to the U.S. Department of Treasury. He said the zones will help promote the economic competitiveness of communities in every corner of South Carolina.

“We are working hard with a number of entities interested in (opportunity zones) and interested in investing money in South Carolina in those areas as well,” McMaster said.

McMaster and Scott will lead an opportunity zones summit Jan. 25 in Columbia.

“I’m hoping that investors will take note that South Carolina is open for business because our economy is booming,” McMaster said. “We have more jobs than we’ve ever had before and our unemployment rate is at a historic low. Things are getting better and better.”

In a statement, Fairfield County Council chairman Billy Smith said the county “is beyond excited” by the decision of Healthcare U.S. Co. to build its first U.S. factory in Winnsboro.

“We welcome them with open and supporting arms, and are hopeful that others will see this and know that Fairfield County is open for business and focused on the kind of growth that will be beneficial both for our citizens and the businesses that choose to locate and invest with us,” Smith said.

South Carolina I-77 Alliance president and chief executive Rich Fletcher said, in a statement, that Fairfield’s proximity to Charlotte Douglas International Airport and “numerous amenities in the Charlotte and Columbia metro areas continue to make it an extremely attractive community for foreign and domestic investment.”

Tom Barton covers South Carolina politics for The State. He has spent more than a decade covering local governments and politicians in Iowa and South Carolina, and has won awards from the S.C. Press Association and Iowa Newspaper Association for public service and feature writing.