Evonik invests in Berkeley German tire industry supplier plans to build second U.S. facility in Lowcountry, creating up to 55 jobs

Evonik Industries, a German company that makes a chemical product used in tires, plans to build a new plant in Berkeley County. South Carolina leads the nation in tire production, with companies such as Bridgestone, Michelin and Continental. A Bridgestone employee is shown at the company’s Graniteville plant near Aiken. File

Germany’s Evonik Industries plans to build a $129.4 million plant in Berkeley County that will make chemicals used in the production of tires, one of South Carolina’s largest business sectors and a key export product through the Port of Charleston.

The facility will be Evonik’s largest investment in North America this decade, according to a statement Klaus Engel, chairman of Evonik’s executive board, made last year as the company was scouting sites in the Southeast U.S.

Evonik’s plans are included in state agency documents, although no official announcement has been made. A spokesman for Evonik could not be reached for comment.

Evonik will locate at the Bushy Park Industrial Complex along the Cooper River near Goose Creek. The facility, at 1588 Bushy Park Road, is expected to create up to 55 jobs. Marc Fetten, CEO of the company that owns Bushy Park, could not be reached for comment Monday.

The state’s Coordinating Council for Economic Development last month approved a $500,000 grant to help Evonik with site preparation and construction costs. Evonik plans to start construction in September and will complete work by the end of 2017, according to agency documents.

Berkeley County Council last week gave initial approval to an incentive agreement that would let Evonik pay a fee that will be lower than normal property taxes. The agreement — for a company the county identifies only as “Project Salty” — needs two more approvals before it is final.

Berkeley County spokesman Michael Mule said county policy “is to not publicly comment on or publicly discuss any potential economic development projects until formal announcements are made.”

The state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control issued a permit in May that will let Evonik discharge treated wastewater into the Cooper River.

Evonik produces a silica-silane combination that is used by tire manufacturers to reinforce their products. The silica-silane has less rolling resistance than carbon black, which traditionally has been used as a reinforcement agent in tires. That allows for up to 8 percent fuel savings compared to conventional tires.

About 30 percent of the 1.4 billion tires sold globally in 2015 were made with the silica-silane combination — more than three times the number sold in 2010.

The bulk of America’s tire production is in South Carolina, which has three major tire manufacturers and is about to get a fourth. The state also leads the nation in tire exports, making nearly one-third of all tires sent to foreign countries.

Michelin, Bridgestone and Continental combine to employ about 11,000 people statewide and make 30 million vehicle tires every year. Giti Tire, which will make tires for trucks and cars, will open a plant next year in Richburg that will employ 1,500 people and make 5 million tires a year.

Also, Italy-based Trelleborg, opened a facility this year in Spartanburg to make large agricultural tires.

The Berkeley County site will be Evonik’s 11th precipitated silica plant worldwide and its second in the U.S., with the other site in Chester, Pa.

Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550.