It's not often a company leaves China, land of cheap labor, for the United States.
But that's what a U.S.-based tire recycling company plans to do.
Tire International wants to shutter its China facility and consolidate its North American operations in a $25 million investment in an existing Berkeley County plant, bringing with it 150 jobs over the next nine months.
"It's very unusual," said Marty Sergi, Tire International's chief financial officer. "It's always been that we recover out of our waste streams valuable commodities and ship them overseas for cheap labor, where they are made into a product and sent back."
Sergi called the practice "very inefficient" because none of the recycled rubber in the products they make comes from China, where most people ride bicycles.
"There is an abundance of product here to recycle," he said.
The company, formerly headquartered in New York but soon to be based in Moncks Corner, looked at sites in China, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland before deciding the Berkeley County site fit its needs.
"By far, the best choice was South Carolina," Sergi said.
The company will use an existing facility called Energy City Tire Recycling on Cypress Gardens Road south of Moncks Corner to recycle tires and make products such as rubber pavers or mulch found in home improvement, hardware and lawn and garden stores.
"We are looking to acquire the site and team up with Energy City," said Sergi, adding that existing infrastructure allows the company to begin operations quicker than in any other location.
He also cited the ability to have raw materials delivered by rail along with the proximity to the port of Charleston as other factors driving the decision to locate in Berkeley County.
State Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said the company will underpin the state's reputation in its materials recycling business.
"The company's decision to locate its operations in South Carolina is another indication that our state's business-friendly climate, skilled workforce and exceptional market access are working to attract new investment and international companies," Hitt said.
Berkeley County Supervisor Dan Davis welcomed the news as well.
"We are excited another global company has chosen our community as its preferred place to do business," he said.
Tire International hopes to hire incrementally starting in August and September with 60 to 70 employees. After fully relocating to Berkeley County by October, it will embark on another round of hiring. As part of the consolidation, the company also plans to move its distribution center from Montreal to Moncks Corner by late fall.
"We should be fully operational by next February or March," Sergi said.
Some jobs will start at $9 an hour, but others will range from $12 to $25 an hour, he said. Plant operators and managers will make considerably more.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524.
Visit the plant site at 1620 Cypress Gardens Road or call the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce in Moncks Corner at 761-4400.
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