Cable maker eyes region: French company Nexans would add 200 jobs to Berkeley County

Nexans

A French maker of cables that carry communication signals and electricity is finalizing a deal to expand its business into the Charleston region.

The Berkeley County Council is scheduled next month to consider incentives being offered to Nexans High Voltage Cable USA Inc. for a manufacturing operation, according to a published notice of the hearing.

The company has been eyeing a location along the Cooper River in the Bushy Park industrial center near Goose Creek. It will make communications cables that run along the ocean floor and that connect offshore wind turbines with the mainland, according to people familiar with Nexans' plans.

The plant is expected to bring about 200 jobs to the county. That figure came courtesy of an official in Georgia, which also had been courting the cable project.

Steve Weathers, president of the Savannah Economic Development Authority, told his board of directors at a recent public meeting that the deal came down to land costs.

"It was a situation where the company was buying land from a private owner, and Charleston's available acreage was significantly less expensive than ours," Weathers said in a report published in the Savannah Morning News.

A key part of the Berkeley County incentives package would allow Nexans to pay a set fee instead of property taxes, which typically fluctuate year to year. Also, the company would be eligible for special tax credits that could be used to offset its various site improvements, such as road work.

The deal already has been reviewed twice publicly by the county's finance committee, but Nexans was not identified during those meetings. Its name had to be released before the next approval, which is a vote by the full council set for Dec. 12.

Gene Butler, the county's economic development director, declined to discuss the Nexans deal.

The company's U.S. spokeswoman said she referred questions about the South Carolina expansion to an official in Paris who was not available Monday.

Nexans was founded in 2000 as part of the French telecommunications giant Alcatel, which spun off the business a year later.

The company makes copper and optical fiber cable products for an array of commercial customers. It has operations around the globe, including two business units in North Carolina. Nexans said in its 2010 annual report that it has more than 23,000 employees worldwide.

Brendan Kearney of The Post and Courier contributed to this report. Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.