Unquenched demand for plastic bottles could draw 700 new jobs to Berkeley County from a manufacturer that's been eyeing the Charleston region for nearly two years.
The deal came to light Tuesday when the owner of Bushy Park Industrial Complex filed a 96-page document detailing plans to develop about 200 acres of the waterfront property near Goose Creek.
Cooper River Partners LLC is asking the Charleston office of the Army Corps of Engineers for permission to fill more than 10 acres of freshwater wetlands, build a private marine terminal, install a rail spur and dredge about 93 acres of the Cooper River to accommodate ocean-going ships.
The name of the manufacturer, which is based overseas, wasn't disclosed. The company is being referred to under the code name "Project Striker."
The plant would make consumer-grade "polyethylene terephthalate" for the North American market and produce about 1,200 tons a day. Also known as PET, the polymer is used extensively as a raw material in the packaging industry, namely recyclable beverage bottles.
BP's Cooper River plant makes a similar product off Cainhoy Road.
The manufacturing process at the Bushy Park site would incorporate a new technology that uses sugar-cane-based ethanol as the raw material instead of fossil fuels, according to the filing.
"This is a project we've been working on coming up on two years," said Marc Fetten of Cooper River Partners, which just last week was sold to Spartanburg-based Pacolet Milliken Enterprises. "These things take a lot of time to develop."
The value of the investment "could easily be in the billions," he added.
Fetten said the deal hinges on obtaining the permits.
"Our attitude is that we don't file for permits unless we have a good degree of certainty these things will happen. That said, there are no guarantees here. We need stakeholders ... to get comfortable with this," he said, referring to government agencies, environmental groups and the general public.
"This is not a typical project," Fetten added. "It's high technology. It's really cool technology. And it adds diversity to the economy. That's important for the long run."
The proposed factory site would include the main production plant, processing areas, offices, laboratories, storage, rail lines and road systems.
The marine terminal would accommodate barges and larger ocean-going vessels ferrying ethanol and other materials to the plant. Outbound shipments will leave mostly on train cars.
"The site was selected through a rigorous site selection evaluation process," according to the filing.
The developer is proposing to offset the loss of wetlands by purchasing mitigation credits from the Francis Beidler and Congaree-Carton land banks.
If built, the plant would be the second big employer to pick the 44-year-old Bushy Park for a new manufacturing site since 2012.
Nexans, a high-voltage cable maker is wrapping up an $85 million factory that's expected to hire 200 workers. The French company recently began production.
Berkeley County Supervisor Dan Davis said it was premature to discuss Project Striker.
"All I know is they filed for the permits," he said Tuesday. "But sometimes that's done in advance of a decision being made. I can't say too much about that."
Asked if he'd welcome 700 hourly and salaried jobs to Bushy Park, Davis responded, "Oh, absolutely."
The Coastal Conservation League was aware of the permit filing but had no immediate reaction to it.
Reach John McDermott at 937-5572.
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