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Celebrating the Impact of Manufacturing in the Palmetto State
October 24, 2022 12:29:18 PM

South Carolina has a long and storied history of industry, resilience, and ambition. In October 2022 acting governor, Henry McMaster, declared October as South Carolina Manufacturing Month, paying tribute to the many manufacturers that make life in South Carolina better.

Manufacturing’s impact in South Carolina is truly meaningful. It’s an industry that invents the future, transforms communities for the better, and creates opportunities and prosperity for so many South Carolinians. South Carolina enjoys a thriving and globally competitive, export-oriented manufacturing base that is a principal driver for the state’s economic growth. In addition to having maintained consistently high growth rates over the past decade, manufacturing is also relatively unique among all industry sectors in that it is one of the highest contributors to both GDP and employment.

South Carolina has consistently outpaced the United States in its rate of economic growth and has seen its total dollar volume of exports grow at about twice the rate as that of imports. Both trends are largely the result of the state’s rapidly expanding manufacturing base.

Here are some stats about manufacturing in South Carolina from the SCMA that illustrate just how significant this industry is to the state of South Carolina and the global supply chain:

  • $60,850 Average SC Manufacturing Salary
  • 5,000+ Manufacturing Facilities in SC
  • 700,000+ Manufacturing Jobs in SC
  • 30% of Jobs Tied to Manufacturing

It’s time to celebrate and recognize the incredible contributions and innovations our friends and neighbors make every day.

Some Big Names and the Cool Stuff They Make

With a wide variety of manufacturing sectors, South Carolina offers a wide variety of goods and exports and a diverse economic base. Some of the largest sectors include motor vehicles, chemicals, machinery, plastics and rubbers, fabricated metal, electrical equipment, and appliances.

Here’s a list compiled by IndustrySelect of the Top 10 Manufacturers in South Carolina:

  • BMW Mfg. Co, LLC.
    • With 11,000 employees, BMW is the state’s largest industrial employer. The Greer BMW location is a major assembly plant and produces more volume than any other BMW plant in the world, specializing in the X5, X3, and X6 sports utility vehicles.
  • Boeing Commercial Airplanes
    • Boeing, the state’s second-largest industrial company employs 7,000 at the North Charleston assembly plant. These facilities produce a wide range of aircraft and related equipment, including commercial jetliners & defense, and space & security systems for military, civil and commercial use. These include fighters, bombers, transports, rotorcraft, and defense and launch systems.
  • GE Power Electronics, Inc.
    • GE’s location in Greenville employs 3,400, making it the state’s third-largest industrial employer. This facility produces gas turbines for energy applications and infrastructure products.
  • Volvo Car U.S. Operations, Inc.
    • In 2016, Volvo announced it would be establishing its first U.S. plant in Ridgeville. Now, employing 3,290 workers, it ranks as the state’s fourth-largest manufacturer. A major win for the state, this site produces sports utility vehicles, specifically the Volvo S60.
  • ZF Transmissions Gray Court, LLC
    • All major automakers need major suppliers and ZF Transmissions fits the bill, employing 2,800 South Carolina workers in Gray Court to produce automotive transmissions, components, and assemblies. ZF Transmissions is a major supplier to the Greer BMW plant.
  • Kraft Heinz Food Company
    • South Carolina’s manufacturing sector isn’t all about the auto sector. Heinz, a major food products company also has a strong presence in the state, employing 2,500 workers at its Newberry facility, where it specializes in turkey processing and packaging under its famous Oscar Mayer brand.
  • Robert Bosch, LLC Automotive Group
    • Another major auto supplier, Robert Bosch employs 2,200 workers in North Charleston, where it produces auto parts such as anti-lock brakes & diesel common rail fuel injection systems, and gasoline fuel injectors. Robert Bosch is among the nation’s top auto parts manufacturers.
  • Husqvarna Outdoor Products, Inc.
    • Located in the city of Orangeburg, Husqvarna Outdoor Products, Inc. produces a wide range of gardening and outdoor power tools, including riding lawnmowers. That facility ranks eighth in the state with 2,000 employees.
  • Electrolux Major Appliances
    • Electrolux is a top U.S. manufacturer of home appliances. The company’s Anderson location focuses on refrigeration manufacturing, employing 1,950. In 2017, Electrolux announced a major expansion of its Anderson manufacturing facility, adding 800,000 square feet.
  • Michelin North America, Inc.
    • Located in the city of Greenville, this is the largest Michelin facility among the state’s six Michelin facilities. This manufacturing site employs 1,900 and focuses on producing rubber tires for passenger vehicles, trucks, and agricultural earthmoving, as well as 2-wheel tires for bikes and motorcycles.

Automotive and Electric Vehicles

South Carolina is the #1 passenger vehicle exporter in the US thanks to BMW’s Spartanburg plant and its active Ports system on the Coast. The state is also home to a number of major players in the Electric Vehicles (EV) industry, both automakers, and suppliers.

South Carolina faces major challenges with underdeveloped charging infrastructure and cultural push-back, however, there are currently over 2,144 PEVs on South Carolina roads today. Companies like Duke Energy and Proterra are driving infrastructure growth and positioning South Carolina as a major hub of EV development.

Some major electric vehicle players in South Carolina include BMW, Volvo, Polestar, Arrival, Mercedes-Benz, Oshkosh, Proterra, Bosch, Magna, and Michelin. Most of these suppliers already have created a significant footprint in the state, and more are establishing roots in the Palmetto State every year. Particularly with battery manufacturing and Tier-1 Automotive suppliers, South Carolina is proving to be a highly-sought after hub for manufacturing.

SC Ports Authority

SC Ports drives economic growth in South Carolina, serving as a key competitive advantage for the state. Port operations support the state’s thriving business community and spur economic development by connecting South Carolina to global markets. Port operations also create high-wage jobs for South Carolinians. SC Ports generates 1 in 10 jobs statewide, and port-supported jobs pay 32% higher than the state’s average annual wage.

Organizational Support and Leading Initiatives

One of the leading support groups of manufacturers in South Carolina is the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance (SCMA). The SCMA is the only statewide organization dedicated exclusively to the interests of manufacturers. Its mission is to strengthen and advance South Carolina manufacturing by advocating for members, fostering a world-class workforce, and bringing together manufacturers to connect, share, and solve industry challenges. The SCMA membership is comprised of more than 200 manufacturing companies that represent more than 100,000 associates in South Carolina.

There are also several South Carolina Universities helping bolster the manufacturing generations of the future. For example, Clemson University is strengthening its ability to conduct research and offer courses in artificial intelligence, a fast-rising technology that is beginning to revolutionize industries ranging from advanced manufacturing to healthcare. About 80 faculty members are banding together to launch the new Clemson Artificial Intelligence Research Institute for Science and Engineering or AIRISE.

MAU is proud to support manufacturing in South Carolina through community outreach, partnerships with organizations like the SCMA, thought leadership, and our numerous service offerings. Every year, MAU sponsors and attends events like the SC Manufacturing Expo, the SCMA Manufacturing Summit, and multiple others to show our support and connect with the community.

We are so grateful for our partners and South Carolina and are eager to be a part of South Carolina’s bright economic future.

To learn more about the major impact South Carolina and the rest of the Southeast has on the Manufacturing industry, check out the Electric Vehicle Landscape infographic!