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Lowcountry Manufacturer Contributes $700 million to SC’s Economy; Plans Expansion

"Lowcountry factory expansion concept"

Lowcountry Manufacturer Contributes $700 million to SC’s Economy; Plans Expansion

Despite already making a significant contribution to South Carolina’s economy, Century Aluminum, a major Berkeley County aluminum manufacturer, is looking forward to expand its operations and further boost the state’s economy.

Massive Economic Impact

According to recent research conducted by the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business, Century Aluminum’s Mt. Holly aluminum smelter contributes a significant $772 million to South Carolina’s economy annually. In addition, the plant supports nearly 1,500 jobs directly and indirectly across the state, with the potential of more jobs being materialized through the planned expansion.

The study, led by Dr. Joseph Von Nessen, elucidates that the effect one job created at the aluminum smelter extends beyond the plant itself. In fact, the creation of every 10 jobs at the facility results in an additional 22 jobs elsewhere within the state.

Planned Expansion and Increased Jobs

Currently, Century Aluminum’s Mt. Holly plant operates at 75% capacity, but the company plans to increase this to 100% by introducing a fourth smelter. This expanded capability is projected to increase job numbers to 1,900 and elevate economic impact to a staggering $892 million.

Goose Creek Mayor Greg Habib voiced his support for the factory’s expansion, emphasizing its great significance for the Lowcountry and the state as a whole.

The Fourth Smelter: Challenges and Concerns

The journey to the full-scale operation is not without its challenges and concerns. Century Aluminum’s senior vice president, Matt Aboud, acknowledged the complex process of starting a fourth smelter due to high operational temperatures. Moreover, some residents and environmental groups have raised concerns over the plant’s environmental footprint and the potential impact of increased emissions on local communities.

In November, two environmental groups, The Environmental Integrity Project and The Sierra Club, filed a petition arguing for more public input on changes to the plant’s emission levels. These concerns came as a result of the South Carolina Department of Health’s decision to allow an increase in the plant’s particulate emissions by nearly 50% and sulfur dioxide emissions by nearly one third.

Furthermore, residents near the plant raised complaints in October over alumina dust spreading over their property, which has incited a class-action lawsuit against the smelter for health-related concerns.

Opportunities and Responsibilities

If implemented conscientiously, the plant’s expansion could bring significant job opportunities and substantial economic growth to the region. At the same time, it affirms the role of businesses in actively addressing environmental and health concerns as part of their strategic expansion efforts. As discussions and planning continue, the state, the community, and the company must find a way to balance these various interests for the success, health, and prosperity of South Carolina.

Lowcountry Manufacturer Contributes $700 million to SC's Economy; Plans Expansion Spartanburg SC

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