Florence County, South Carolina – Members of the Florence County Council gathered for an important meeting last Thursday to discuss various issues related to the AESC battery plant.
AESC, an electric vehicle battery technology firm from Japan, revealed plans to enlarge their upcoming facility in Florence County.
This cutting-edge battery cell plant is set to provide 450 new job opportunities and is anticipated to be operational by 2026.
During the meeting, the Florence County council made a decision to declare 10 acres of the county’s surplus timber and authorized the county administrator to negotiate a contract for its disposal, benefiting the county.
The declaration reads:
Florence County Code requires County Council approval for disposal of surplus property.
Once the timber is declared surplus, the county will receive quotes from firms to timber, clear, and grub the above stated property. This property will be the future site of the State of SC AESC Training Center.
The quote that is most advantageous to Florence County will be selected.
Wetland area boundaries will be avoided.”
Kevin Yokim, the Administrator of Florence County, explained that the 10 acres in question are part of a larger 80-acre area bought by the county around three years ago for an industrial park. This purchase was made before they knew that AESC would be setting up there.
Yokim mentioned that the council’s recent decision will speed up the development process.
He detailed that the proposed training center, to be situated near the AESC battery plant, only requires 10 acres. The site is currently forested, and as the county owns this land and the timber, the council needed to label the timber as surplus to sell it. They plan to put it out for bidding, select the best offer, and then have the timber cleared by the chosen company.
Florence County plans to donate the land to the state
Yokim also shared that the training center, once built, will be near the battery facility. The county plans to donate this land to the state, which will then construct the training center with increased funding of $22 million, thanks to additional investments. This center is expected to be substantial and will play a crucial role in training AESC’s future workforce.
Furthermore, Yokim noted that AESC’s facility will be part of the over 1,000-acre Florence Global Technology and Commerce Park. This is part of a broader effort to enhance production capacities and support the nation’s transition to electric vehicles.
Lastly, the Florence County council gave a second approval to a fee-in-lieu agreement for the AESC plant, in light of its expansion.
A portion of the incentive agreement reads:
WHEREAS, the Company anticipates that the Project will result in an investment of approximately $810 million in land, improvements to land, and personal property, and the creation of approximately 450 new, full-time jobs in the County; and
WHEREAS, based solely on the information the Company has provided, the County intends to provide certain funds and other incentives as an inducement for the Company to locate the Project in the County.
Florence County Administrator Kevin Yokim explained why council members are voting on an incentive agreement.
“In addition to what the state is providing for the second announcement by AESC, the county also had to commit to a certain amount of incentive for them to help make it, make the economic sense for them to make this expansion announcement. And obviously, given the size of the announcement we are willing to do that, and that will be officially voted on in tomorrow’s council meeting,” said Yokim.
In two separate meetings earlier, both the Joint Bond Review Committee and the State Fiscal Accountability Authority approved an additional $50 million in state economic development bonds. This funding is intended to support the expansion of a major project, covering costs for extra off-site infrastructure, site preparation, underground construction aid, and a larger training center.
Representatives from the Pee Dee Regional Council of Governments highlighted the significant positive impact the project will have on neighboring counties in Pee Dee, which have experienced higher unemployment rates over the past year.
Joette Dukes, the Executive Director of the Pee Dee Council of Governments, reflected on the timing of the plant’s announcement. It coincided with downsizing, layoffs, and closures in the area, leading to a pool of unemployed individuals who are potential candidates for the new plant’s workforce.
The company behind the project has already started hiring management-level staff, who will be responsible for the plant’s overall hiring process.
The Pee Dee Council of Governments also plays a role in assisting employers with their recruitment needs. Bridgette Coates, Director of Pee Dee Workforce Development, expressed hopes for organizing a job fair and collaborating with ReadySC, County Economic Development, and other partners to support workforce development. She anticipates more partnerships as the project progresses.
The North Eastern Strategic Alliance (NESA), a non-profit economic development organization, serves nine counties in northeastern South Carolina. NESA’s main goal is to create job opportunities for residents by supporting existing industries and attracting new businesses to the region.
The council is scheduled to conduct the third and final reading of the related ordinance at their meeting on Thursday, January 18.