Berkeley County officials are wondering what to expect as Volvo gets ready to crank up a major car factory in their Lowcountry home.
Spartanburg County officials have been experiencing the effects of a major car factory since the first vehicle came off the line at the BMW plant near Greer more than 20 years ago.
The South Carolina Department of Commerce figured members of Berkeley County Council and the Berkeley County Planning Commission could learn from their counterparts in Spartanburg County as they get ready to host Volvo, whose sole U.S. factory, announced in May, will ultimately employ 4,000 people.
The Commerce Department organized a meeting for officials from the two counties – and the city of Greer – to talk about the pros and cons of being home to an operation that makes hundreds of thousands of luxury cars every year and sells them around the world.
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The meeting took place Wednesday morning at Greer City Hall and was followed by a tour of BMW Manufacturing Co.
Among those who took part were Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt, a former BMW executive, and Bill Peagle, a former mayor of Moncks Corner who is now chairman of Berkeley County Council.
Spartanburg County Councilman David Britt warned the Berkeley delegation against listening to naysayers.
Textile interests opposed the recruiting of BMW, he recalled, while school officials and tea party activists fought against giving the German automaker tax breaks in exchange for jobs.
Britt also recalled the city of Greer trying to annex the BMW site to collect more property tax revenue – a move that was opposed by the late Gov. Carroll Campbell.
“Work together,” Britt advised the Lowcountry visitors. “Put your differences aside.”
Greer Mayor Rick Danner said the BMW factory ignited growth in Greer, even though the city doesn’t collect any tax revenue from it.
“BMW served as kind of the rock in the pond,” he said. The “sustained ripple effect” has “really driven our economy.”
Another effect of the BMW plant was to increase traffic, Danner said.