An ‘International Megasite’ is ready. What it means for York, Chester, Lancaster jobs

At its size, an international megasite coming to Interstate 77, just south of Chester County, will have regional benefits across South Carolina.

“In our estimation, it’s definitely a regional impact,” said Rich Fletcher, I-77 Alliance president and CEO. “(Fairfield County) and the state have kind of set this land aside. They’re looking at something that could bring 2,000 or more jobs. Something like that would create a need for a supply chain and jobs that would extend far beyond Fairfield County.”

Fletcher’s group is marketing a 1,500-acre site, known as the I-77 International Megasite, at exit 34, 20 miles south of the Chester County line. A master plan calls for more than 9 million square feet of manufacturing space, rail lines, an electrical substation, a million-gallon water tank and perhaps even a new interchange off the interstate.

It also calls for a single manufacturer.

“There are often sites that are pretty big but they are divvied up and cut up into small parts,” Fletcher said. “The county and state have guaranteed that this is not one of those sites.”

The result could be something on par with some of the state’s largest manufacturers, such as Volvo in Berkeley County, BMW in Spartanburg County, Continental Tire in Sumter County and Giti Tire in Chester County.

“The International Megasite is ready to represent the next chapter in the Palmetto State’s record of building a major presence in the transportation manufacturing space, including automotive and aerospace,” said Bobby Hitt, state secretary of commerce. “When this property is a thriving workplace, the benefits will be felt across South Carolina.”

A little closer to downtown Columbia than to Rock Hill, the megasite’s draw from the Charlotte labor force and market will be critical to attracting the right manufacturer, Fletcher said.

The marketing information lists seven potential supply chain available sites in York, Lancaster and Chester counties spanning to Fort Mill. Two existing buildings, Duracell and Valmet properties in Lancaster County, are listed as possibilities for supply chain commerce.

“Charlotte would certainly be a part of the decision with its labor force, but we would enjoy some other economic opportunities along the corridor,” Fletcher said.

No manufacturer has been identified for the site yet. An automotive one would be ideal, Fletcher said, but it wouldn’t take a car maker to rev up economic opportunities along I-77.

“Anyone really that would create that many jobs and have a regional impact would be what they are looking for,” he said.

The impacts could go beyond manufacturing. Brooke Wilson Clinton, president of the Chester County Chamber of Commerce, said Tuesday she wasn’t aware of the site but has spoken with her counterparts in Fairfield County about the constant search for a game-changing project.

“That’s what always excites me at the chamber about these types of announcements,” Clinton said. “What are these megasites going to need?”

That many employees means a need for grocery stores and service businesses. It could mean more off-shoot manufacturing companies in Chester County, and more interests there, too.

“It just improves the quality of life for everyone,” Clinton said.

The 2017 federal tax overhaul created opportunity zones, incentivizing investment in lower income areas through deferred tax bills on capital gains investment. More than half of Fairfield County is an opportunity zone. The area includes more than half of its run of I-77, including the megasite.

Chester County has had its own major manufacturing additions, too, from Giti announcing its plans in 2014 to ShayoNano’s announcement in fall. County economic development leaders have more than 30 sites and a dozen buildings listed and primed for new development.

“Fairfield and Chester have so many things in common,” Clinton said.

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John Marks covers community growth, municipalities and general news mainly in the Fort Mill and York County areas. He began writing for the Herald and sister papers in 2005 and won dozens of South Carolina Press Association and other awards since.

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