The Buzz

State could borrow up to $150 million for Volvo

South Carolina could borrow from $125 million to $150 million to land Volvo, a state senator said Wednesday.

That $400 million auto plant could employ 4,000 in the Lowcountry’s Berkeley County.

Also Wednesday, two state agencies that could play key roles in landing the automaker called closed-door meetings for later this week. In both cases, the agencies said the purpose of the executive sessions was to discuss an economic-development project.

The flurry of activity could indicate South Carolina is closing in on a Volvo deal or attempting to match an offer made by Georgia, the other state the Swedish automaker reportedly is considering for its first U.S. plant.

While no state leaders officially have said Volvo is considering locating in South Carolina, legislators have dropped the automaker’s name with increasing frequency.

As the Senate Finance Committee was debating a proposed state borrowing bill Wednesday, state Sen. Ray Cleary, R-Georgetown, asked if the bond proposal included the $125 million to $150 million that the state would need to borrow to land Volvo.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, the Florence Republican who also heads the Finance Committee, responded that GOP Gov. Haley had said Tuesday the state would not need to borrow to pay for incentives for Volvo.

The Senate borrowing plan includes money for colleges, technical schools and state armories, Leatherman said. “There’s no economic incentives in this bond bill.”

Cleary called Haley’s willingness to borrow to lure Volvo — but not colleges and technical schools — a double standard.

“I’m interested that we can bond for bringing industry here, but we can’t bond for the future of our children for schools and technical colleges that they can actually work at Volvo and Boeing,” Cleary said afterward.

Volvo said earlier this year it would build a U.S. plant. Reportedly, it has narrowed the states it is considering to South Carolina and Georgia, including sites near Savannah and Brunswick.

In South Carolina, Volvo has focused on a Berkeley County site.

That site has Santee Cooper transmission lines running across it, and, in the past, South Carolina has used the state-owned utility to offer low-priced power to industrial prospects.

The Santee Cooper board Wednesday called a closed-door session for 8 a.m. Friday in Myrtle Beach, saying it would “discuss contract negotiations with regard to industrial and wholesale contracts ... and matters ... encouraging economic development. ...”

The state’s technical school board, which often trains new workers for new industries, subsequently called a closed-door meeting for Thursday to discuss “matters relating to the proposed ... expansion of industries or other businesses in the area. ...”

Staff Writer Andy Shain contributed. Reach Cope at (803) 771-8657.

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