A Tokyo-based carbon fiber maker’s record-setting $1 billion investment could be a "game-changer" for Spartanburg County, raising income levels and the quality of life for local residents, officials say.
Facts from the S.C. Department of Commerce
– The $1 billion capital investment represents one of the highest initial investments in S.C. history.
– State officials expect 500 new manufacturing jobs to be created in Spartanburg County.
– Based in Tokyo, Japan, Toray is the largest producer of carbon fiber in the world.
– The facility will be a major supplier of advanced materials to the aerospace industry.
– The new facility will be located on about 400 acres along Highway 290 in Moore, with access to I-26 and I-85.
Toray Industries Inc. said Tuesday it will make the state’s largest-ever initial investment in a new production facility on 400 acres near the intersection of highways 290 and 221 in Moore. The company also will create 500 jobs.
"South Carolina offers Toray Industries an ideal location for our next North American manufacturing facility," Akihiro Nikkaku, president of Toray Industries, said in a statement. "Here we will have proximity to major customers, both in the U.S. and in Latin American markets. We appreciate the great working relationship we have established with the state and local officials and we look forward to becoming part of the South Carolina business community."
Gov. Nikki Haley broke the news of Toray’s decision Tuesday while speaking to a group of Rotarians at the Piedmont Club. The governor said in a Facebook post on Monday that her impromptu visit to Spartanburg might just include a "fun announcement."
"Ladies and gentlemen, we are now in the carbon fiber business," Haley said during the meeting. "(Toray) is the largest manufacturer of carbon fiber in the world. … We couldn’t be more excited that they are coming to South Carolina."
The property Toray chose for the project is owned by Spartanburg-based Pacolet Milliken Enterprises Inc. Pacolet Milliken invested in infrastructure improvements on the site in order for it to qualify for the S.C. Department of Commerce’s Industrial Site Certification Program.
Details of the plant’s size and scope have not been disclosed, but the company said it would be a high-performance carbon fiber manufacturing facility. Officials said they expect it will be "sizable," but the company hasn’t announced when construction will begin.
The property is still "under contract," but Toray is anticipated to close on it soon, officials said. They said the property offers the company good access to interstates 85 and 26.
Allison Skipper, spokeswoman for the S.C. Department of Commerce, said the state has approved $10 million in grants for the project. The sum includes $7 million in closing fund grants for acquiring the land and $3 million for real property improvements.
The company will receive job development credits once it reaches its job and investment targets, Skipper said.
County Council also is expected to provide incentives for the company. It will vote on those measures in the coming months.
State and local officials said they have been courting the company for several years.
Toray said in a statement that it plans to "actively invest its management resources in the acquired land to make it its advanced material business base." The announcement is in line with its vision for a facility that covers several levels of carbon fiber production.
The company said it views the U.S. as one of its key markets for several reasons, including the high demand for advanced materials in the aircraft and energy industries. It also is close to emerging markets in Latin America.
South Carolina’s aerospace industry encompasses more than 200 companies, including Toray’s customer Boeing, and about 20,000 employees, according to the Commerce Department.
Officials said the company has not said whether it plans to use the county’s new inland port near Greer.
"South Carolina is well-known as both a manufacturing powerhouse and a top location for foreign-owned firms to set up operations," state Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt said in a statement. "Toray’s decision to invest here underscores our growing expertise in composites and advanced materials as well as our global reputation as being just right for business."
Local officials said landing Toray required a team effort that included the state Commerce Department, County Council, the Economic Futures Group, Pacolet Milliken, local utility companies and several other agencies.
"I think they fell in love with Spartanburg," said County Councilman David Britt, a board member of the Economic Futures Group. "These are top-flight jobs. The per-capita income will be raised. This is going to have a major impact. … I think Toray has under-promised and will over-deliver. I believe it will have a very similar impact on the county and South Carolina as BMW."
By comparison, BMW initially invested $420 million to bring its first and only North American manufacturing plant to the county in 1992. At the time, the company hoped to create 1,000 jobs.
Today, BMW Manufacturing Co. represents about an $8 billion investment and employs close to 8,000 people.
"This rivals the largest economic development opportunities in the state," County Councilman Michael Brown said. "I mean, they could’ve landed anywhere. … It just shows you how hard everyone worked to make sure they were going to be able to come to Spartanburg."
The state’s largest initial investment came in 2011, when Bridgestone Americas announced it would spend $1.2 billion on two projects in Aiken County. But that announcement included the expansion of an existing facility. Toray’s is the largest initial investment in a single new facility, officials said.
Toray has businesses in 23 countries and regions worldwide. For more information, visit www.toray.com.