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SC loses previously announced plant expansion and jobs to Ga.

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A Japanese company has decided to build a $150 million plant to produce copper foil for makers of electric car batteries in Augusta rather than Camden. File/AP

AUGUST — A Japanese company will build a $150 million plant to make copper foil for electric vehicle batteries in Georgia, scuttling a previously announced plans to expand its operations near its existing factory in South Carolina.

Nippon Denkai's American subsidiary said it would hire more than 100 workers and could eventually triple production in Augusta from an initial 10,500 tons to 31,500 tons. That would raise the investment to $450 million and create 250 jobs over the next five years.

"Our goal is to triple the capacity in Augusta; market conditions will determine the timeline," said Denkai America spokesperson Michael Coll.

The company said it would raise its initial investment by $10 million from what it had announced in December for Camden in Kershaw County.

Nippon Denkai told investors that the 115-acre Augusta site is better than the South Carolina location because it has room for expansion, because it can host an "advanced" equipment layout and because of a "key cost competitive edge" in electricity rates.

The company plans to start construction in September and hopes to be shipping samples to manufacturers by the summer of 2024.

Nippon Denkai sees a big opportunity, saying few copper foil plants are being built to supply new U.S. battery plants coming online. Nippon Denkai said that companies will want domestic sources to avoid supply chain problems including risks of politically driven disruptions.

The company projects an annual 21.4 percent growth in copper foil demand through 2035.

Nippon Denkai said the ability to triple output in Augusta will allow it to pursue that growth. Combined with the 30-year-old Camden plant, the company would have U.S. production capacity of more than 35,000 metric tons.

In June, Denkai announced a smaller $14 million expansion at the 80-worker South Carolina plant, also related to expansion in the electric battery and vehicle market. The company acquired the Camden foil factory when it bought previous owner Oak-Mitsui Inc. in March 2020

In Georgia, Nippon Denkai is getting free land valued at $2.25 million, said Cal Wray, president of Augusta Economic Development Authority.

Also, officials said they will spend an undisclosed amount of money to train workers. Nippon Denkai could claim various tax breaks, including a credit allowing it to annually deduct $4,000 per job from its state income taxes, up to $5 million over five years, as long as workers make at least $28,000 a year.

Augusta-Richmond County will give property tax breaks that Wray said would be valued in the millions.

Pat Wilson of the Georgia Economic Development Commission pointed to the announcement as more fruit of the state's focus on what he calls a "generational opportunity" in electric vehicles, including the $5 billion Rivian Automotive plant east of Atlanta and the $5.5 billion Hyundai Motor Group plant near Savannah.

Wray said a $347 million, 125-job copper smelter announced by Aurubis AG in Augusta is another development driven by the growth in electric vehicles.

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The Post and Courier contributed to this report.