Is it Volvo? Major employer eyes Berkeley

A large manufacturing facility that would employ up to 4,000 people over the next decade is being proposed for a 2,800-acre parcel in the Camp Hall Commerce Park in Ridgeville, according to an application for an environmental permit.

The permit — filed by Berkeley County on Thursday with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Charleston — does not name the manufacturer, but states that it is an “advanced manufacturing and assembly facility” that will require the same type of transportation, distribution and logistics network as the automotive and aerospace industries.

It is not clear whether the project is the Volvo automobile manufacturing plant that South Carolina and other states have been trying to lure in recent months.

The manufacturer is identified as “Project Soter” on the permit application. Soter is the spirit of safety in Greek mythology. Volvo cars have long been marketed for having a reputation for safety.

According to the permit application, the company initially would build a 575-acre manufacturing and production facility on the property, which is near Interstate 26 and within 28 miles of the Port of Charleston. The first phase would employ as many as 2,000 workers and would include administrative offices and a welcome center.

Depending on market conditions, a second phase could be built that would include another manufacturing and production facility employing another 2,000 workers.

The permit application was filed because the proposed work includes filling nearly 195 acres of wetlands. The application proposes a mitigation plan that would preserve, restore and enhance 1,533 acres of wetlands on four tracts in the Dean Swamp and Walnut Branch watersheds, which are tributaries of the Four Holes Swamp blackwater river.

The Army Corps is reviewing the application and will accept comments on the proposal for the next 15 days. The wetlands project also would need approval from the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control.

A joint statement issued Thursday by Berkeley County and state Commerce Department officials called the project “a tremendous opportunity to bring needed jobs and economic activity to northern Berkeley County near the I-95 corridor and do so in a way that also preserves and enhances the local environment.”

Commerce officials would not identify the manufacturer. Michael Mule, spokesman for Berkeley County, said he cannot comment on the project.

Volvo said last month that it intends to build a $500 million manufacturing plant in the U.S. in the hopes of doubling its annual sales in this country to 100,000 automobiles over the next few years. Volvo has been owned by Chinese automaker Geely Holding since 2010. It currently has two plants in Europe and two in China.

“Volvo Cars cannot claim to be a true global car maker without an industrial presence in the U.S.,” Hakan Samuelsson, Volvo’s CEO, said in a statement last month. “The U.S. is an absolutely crucial part of our global transformation.”

Samuelsson said last month that the automaker had a short list of U.S. locations but he did not disclose them. Media reports have stated that South Carolina and Georgia are front-runners for the plant.

The manufacturing site outlined in Thursday’s permit application is a portion of the nearly 6,800-acre Camp Hall project owned by MeadWestvaco’s land development division. MeadWestvaco spokeswoman Jennifer Howard declined to comment on the manufacturing project.

Reach David Wren at 937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_