A Chinese company is reversing the trend of textile jobs going overseas.
The Keer Group will build a new plant south of Charlotte, creating 501 jobs over five years.
The company will construct a 230,000-square-foot facility in Indian Land in Lancaster County in a $218 million investment as its first plant outside of China.
"During our search, South Carolina quickly rose to the top of our list," said Zhu Shan Qing, chairman of Keer Group. "We chose to locate our first U.S. facility in South Carolina for a number of reasons, which include the state's workforce, proximity to cotton producers and access to the port."
The company will produce industrial cotton yarn, taking advantage of South Carolina's location within the heart of the nation's cotton-producing region. Keer expects to break ground in early February and be in operation next year.
"Keer's commitment to our state is a strong testament to South Carolina's pro-business environment and capable and ready workforce," Gov. Nikki Haley said.
South Carolina leads the U.S. in foreign-affiliated job recruitment per capita according to IBM's Global Location Trends report, and Chinese firms in particular represent an important and growing part of the state's business community.
From 2011 to 2013, China was the fourth-highest nation in foreign-direct investment to South Carolina, behind Germany, Japan and France, according to state Commerce officials. In 2012, a record export year for the state with $25.3 billion in goods exported, China ranked third globally in receiving products from South Carolina.
"South Carolina has long been a strong player in both manufacturing and foreign-direct investment," said Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt. "Foreign-owned companies employ more than 100,000 South Carolinians today and are located in nearly every county. China represents an opportunity to continue that growth trend."
The state's logistics capabilities was an important driver of the company's decision, and yarn produced in Keer's facility will be exported in containers to China via the Port of Charleston.
"The South Carolina Ports Authority is pleased to fulfill the Keer Group's export needs through the Port of Charleston's eight direct service routes to China," said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority. "The Southeast region, and South Carolina in particular, continues to see export growth driven by manufacturing, and Keer's major investment signals its potential to soon become one of our state's largest exporters."
Zhu, chairman of Keer Group, said South Carolina's China Office played an important role in introducing the company to the state.
"Through Mr. Ling Xinwei (John Ling) from the S.C. Department of Commerce China Office, we became introduced to South Carolina's capabilities and assets, which helped make this project a reality," Zhu said.
Keer expects to begin hiring during the second half of 2014 and is actively working with readySC, the state's workforce training and development program that comprises all 16 of the state's technical colleges.
"The Keer project is one of the single largest industrial investments in the history of Lancaster County and the more than 500 textile jobs will provide a much-needed boost to our local economy," said Larry McCullough, chairman of Lancaster County Council. "For over 100 years Lancaster County was a leader in the textile industry and with the addition of Keer's new manufacturing facility we can once again be a leader in the industry for decades to come."