Santee Cooper has called a special board meeting for late Mother’s Day afternoon to discuss an economic development deal behind closed doors, adding to the speculation that Volvo’s first U.S. car plant is on its way to Berkeley County.
The directors of the state-owned electric and water utility will discuss “negotiations incident to proposed contractual arrangements and proposed sale or purchase of property and matters related to the expansion and provision of services encouraging economic development.”
The 5 p.m. meeting will include a presentation by Pamela Williams, Santee Cooper’s senior vice president for corporate services, from the Moncks Corner headquarters. Some of the directors will attend by phone.
The board also will take up a resolution related to an undisclosed “Economic Development Project,” according to the meeting agenda released about 3 p.m. Saturday. The utility will issue a statement afterward, spokeswoman Mollie Gore said.
She said Santee Cooper would not confirm whether the purpose for the meeting is “Project Soter,” which is widely believed to be a code name South Carolina is using for the Volvo factory.
The board is getting together two days after an Atlanta newspaper reported that the Swedish automaker had notified Georgia officials that it was no longer interested in a site near Savannah, leaving a large tract along Interstate 26 in Ridgeville as the last contender for the $500 million plant. The proposed factory could employ as many as 4,000 workers over the next decade. A Volvo spokesman declined to comment late Friday
The Post and Courier reported last month that Volvo was the likely company eyeing a 2,800-acre parcel in the Camp Hall Commerce Park for a large manufacturing campus. Santee Cooper is expected to provide power to the property.
An application for an environmental permit filed by Berkeley County with the Army Corps of Engineers did not name the company, but it stated that it is seeking to build an “advanced manufacturing and assembly facility” that will require the same type of transportation, distribution and logistics network as the automotive and aerospace industries.
The manufacturer is identified as “Project Soter.” 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 facility on Meadwestvaco Corp.’s undeveloped Camp Hall industrial park, which is about 28 miles from the Port of Charleston. The first phase would employ as many as 2,000 workers.
Depending on market conditions, a second phase could be built that would include another manufacturing and production facility on more land employing another 2,000 workers.
The permit was requested because the proposed work includes filling nearly 195 acres of wetlands.
A joint statement issued by Berkeley County and the state Commerce Department last month 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.”
Volvo, which has been owned by Chinese automaker Geely Holding since 2010, said in March that it intends to build a U.S. factory under a plan to double its annual sales in the United States to 100,000 automobiles over the next few years.
It currently has two plants in Europe and two in China.
Numerous media reports have stated that South Carolina and Georgia were the two finalists for the U.S. factory.