2013 a good year for local economies

dworthington@heraldonline.comDecember 29, 2013 

Shutterfly opened its York County operations in Fort Mill in 2013. Shown here, Bridgett Williams examines photo books before they are shipped to customers.

ANDY BURRISS — aburriss@heraldonline.com Buy Photo

  • Economic development projects announced in 2013

    Chester County

    • Outokumpu Stainless Bar $18 million expansion, 20 jobs

    • JN Fibers new $45 million plant, 318 jobs

    Lancaster

    • Cardinal expansion, investment confidential, 150 jobs

    • Thomas & Betts $3 million expansion, 86 jobs

    • Accutrex $2.5 million expansion, 15 jobs

    • Maverick Funding $1 expansion, 50 jobs

    • Red Ventures $46 million expansion, 1,200 jobs

    • DLS Tire $2.7 million plant, 53 jobs

    • Commercial Tire Retreating $250,000 expansion, 5 jobs

    • Van Can $4 million expansion, 15 jobs

    • Nutramax $13 million expansion, 50 jobs

    • Radco/Surefin, $2.5 million investment, 20 jobs

    • Fancy Pokkett, $13 million bakery, 68 jobs

    • Rebound Behavorial Health, $6 million investment, 90 jobs

    • Duracell expansion, investment confidential, 34 new jobs

    • Keer America, $218 investment in new textile plant, 500 jobs

    • IMS $4.5 million expansion, 19 jobs

    • Fab Fours $1.2 million expansion, 10 jobs

    York

    • Ross Distribution, $150 million investment in new distribution center, 600 jobs

    • Britax, $26 million investment in new plant, 240 jobs

    • Shutterfly, $60 million investment in new plant, 416 jobs

    • Physicians Choice Lab, $27.6 million investment in new lab, 364 jobs

    • Oerlikon, $6 million expansion, 30 jobs

    • Nation Ford Chemical, $5.5 million expansion, 16 jobs

    • Laptech, $4.5 million expansion, 60 jobs

    • Keller USA, $2.5 million expansion, 10 jobs

    • Transaxle, $7.5 million expansion

    • Silcotech, $3.5 million in new plant, 50 jobs

    • Softex, $2 million in new plant, 36 jobs

    • Exel, $38 million in new distribution center, 133 jobs

    • Coroplast, $12 million in plant, 153 jobs.

    • 3D Systems, $10.5 million expansion, 135 jobs

More business investment, more jobs promised, falling unemployment rates – what’s not to like about the 2013 economy for York, Chester and Lancaster counties?

Investment in new or existing business in the three counties totaled more than $750 million. More than 5,000 jobs were promised, and many have been filled.

The November unemployment rate for the three counties was in single digits for the first time since 2005. York’s rate for November was 7.1 percent while the national rate was 7 percent. The rates were 8.1 and 9.4 in Lancaster and Chester, respectively.

Especially important was the return of manufacturing jobs to the region. Two of the biggest plants are Chinese owned.

In Chester County, JN Fibers of Zhejiang, China, announced it will invest $5 million and hire more than 300 people at a plant that will recycle discarded soda and water bottles and transform them into recycled polyester staple fibers for use in home textiles, furniture, upholstery and automotive industries.

In Lancaster County, the Keer Group, based about two hours from Shanghai, China, will invest more than $218 million and hire 500 people to produce industrial cotton yarn. Construction could start as early as February.

In York County, Britax, Shutterfly and Physicians Choice decided to relocate from Charlotte, investing a combined $103 million in new facilities. The companies employ more than 1,000 people combined. But many of the workers kept their Charlotte homes, merely extending their commute a few more minutes.

Retail operations also saw big changes in 2013. Cabela’s Christmas present to those who love the outdoors was its Dec. 19 announcement that it will tear down the Plaza Fiesta site next to Carowinds and invest millions in a new building. No specific dollar amount was announced but the outdoor retailer plans to hire up to 225 full- and part-time workers.

That number, however, is offset by the closure of several businesses at Plaza Fiesta, the largest being Hamrick’s. The clothing store is looking for a Rock Hill location.

Belk completed its renovation and expansion at the Galleria store, and Sam’s Club opened down the road.

Major changes to the area’s grocery retail market were announced this year. Several stores were sold or swapped, and Wal-Mart began efforts to become a dominate retailer in Rock Hill by announcing plans to open several smaller neighborhood markets and one more super center.

Publix announced plans to acquire several Bi-Lo stores to enter the Rock Hill market. Publix will have stores in former Bi-Lo locations on Cherry Road and at the corner of Heckle Boulevard and Herlong Avenue. Harris Teeter was acquired by Kroger, and Piggy Wiggly sold some of its stores.

Plans for the Wal-Mart stores must be approved by the city.

What will the result of all the competition be? Lower prices? Some analysts say grocery profit margins are already so thin that it will be difficult to cut prices. Will one, or more, chain groceries be leaving the area?

Like years past, having a highly skilled workforce remains the top priority and challenge for the region. But it is likely to be more acute as Rock Hill moves forward with the Knowledge Park, an economic development project that calls for redeveloping the former Rock Hill Printing and Finishing textile site. The vision is to attract technology companies and good-paying jobs.

Yet even the city and the Rock Hill Economic Development Corp. acknowledge the area doesn’t have enough qualified tech workers to make the strategy work. Finding more ways to educate, or attract, tech workers to our area will be a big challenge for 2014.

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066 • dworthington@heraldonline.com

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