An Italy-based maker of roller bearings plans to open its first U.S. manufacturing plant in Colleton County, creating 50 jobs over the next five years.

Meter Bearings Group of Torino will open a 48,000-square-foot factory in Walterboro in a $4.5 million investment, the governor's office and state Commerce Department announced Wednesday. Production will begin in September 2015.

The family-owned company designs and produces ball and cylindrical roller bearings. Founded in 1981, it has other manufacturing plants in Italy and China and customer support offices in Germany and the U.S.

"Part of our growth strategy is to establish a manufacturing operation in the United States to reach our customers that already exist there," said Vittorio Musso, president and CEO of Meter S.p.A. "We chose Colleton County thanks to the great and professional support of the South Carolina Department of Commerce staff and local officials."

Gov. Nikki Haley said it will provide "a real boost" to the rural area, and state Commerce officials hailed the announcement as another indication of foreign firms selecting the Palmetto State to set up shop.

"Through our ease of access to global markets through the port and our strong workforce, Meter has realized the potential of doing business here in South Carolina," Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said. "Meter will be a great addition to our growing community of foreign-owned companies in our state, and I look forward to seeing them succeed here."

The proximity to the port of Charleston also figured into the company's decision to locate in Colleton because of the firm's import and export needs.

"Their announcement today is a reminder that our capable port system impacts every county across the state and handles cargo for businesses of all sizes," said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the S.C. Ports Authority.

The Coordinating Council for Economic Development approved a $200,000 Rural Infrastructure Fund grant for real property improvements to lure the factory to Walterboro.

Meter Bearings is coordinating with readySC to create a customized, pre-employment training program. For more information about new jobs and to apply, go to www.sctechjobs.com or visit the local SC Works office located at the Colleton Career Skills Center, 1085 Thunderbolt Road in Walterboro.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.