Sonepar North America to relocate HQ to new office building

Faber Plaza is set for completion in the spring.

One filled. Four to go.

A large new office building under construction in North Charleston has landed its first tenant in a deal that eats up 20 percent of the leasable space.

Sonepar North America is taking the 25,000-square-foot top floor of the five-story Faber Plaza, Palmetto Commercial Properties announced last week. The business-to-business supplier of electrical products and safety tools will be relocating from West Ashley.

The North Charleston space will serve as the French-owned company’s North American headquarters.

“We look forward to operating in this new facility and are excited about the opportunity to move our Lowcountry workforce into this great location,” Sonepar North America CEO Dave Gabriel said in a statement.

Faber Plaza is under construction at 4400 Leeds Ave., near U.S. Interstate 526 and the Executive Park at Faber Place. It is the largest speculative office building built to date in the region, according to the developer.

Completion is scheduled for April.

The developer is a joint venture between Charleston-based Durlach Associates and Trinity Capital Advisors of Charlotte, It said it’s confident about its prospects for leasing the other 100,000 square feet “as the building moves closer to completion.”

The first tenant was formerly known as Hagemeyer North America, which still exists in name as a Sonepar division.

Hagemeyer was part of a Dutch-owned company when it established a foothold in the Southeast about 15 years ago, when it acquired North Charleston-based distributor Cameron & Barkley for $265 million. It moved its North American headquarters to the Lowcountry from Atlanta in 2003, and set up its corporate office at its existing location on Tobias Gadson Boulevard in West Ashley.

After Hagemeyer’s parent company was sold in 2007, the buyer flipped the Charleston-based division to Sonepar, a family-owned group of global businesses headquartered in Paris.

One day after vowing to fight for the survival of its Mount Holly smelter in Goose Creek, Century Aluminum announced that it will cut production at another site.

Century said in a federal filing Friday that it plans to curtail one of its three potlines at Sebree, Ky,. by the end of the year. The plant employs 525 workers, about 75 fewer than the Chicago-based company’s Berkeley County smelter.

“This is a direct result of Chinese overcapacity and the improper export of heavily subsidized Chinese aluminum products that has caused the significant decline in the price of aluminum,” Century CEO Michael Bless said in a statement.

“Sebree is one of the most cost-effective smelters in the U.S. with an excellent product mix and its continued operation is now in jeopardy due to unfair Chinese trade behavior,” Bless added. “Actions must be taken to immediately address this unfair behavior and we are working with the industry and the U.S. government to do so.”

Century announced a $51.6 million loss for the third quarter last week. In a conference call with analysts, Bless said he is “far, far from ready to even begin giving up” on the Mount Holly smelter.

Century previously has said it will close the smelter by Dec. 31 if a new contract can’t be reached with Santee Cooper, the Moncks Corner-based power utility.

Century wants the state-owned utility to let an unidentified outside provider use the utility’s transmission lines to bring cheaper electricity to the Mount Holly site. Century has said it would pay Santee Cooper about $13 million for the use of its lines, but the power company has said the proposal isn’t legal under federal regulations.

Santee Cooper and state officials, including Gov. Nikki Haley, have said they’ve done everything they can to keep the plant open, although a closing appears imminent.

“We will fight during the next two months for the future of this excellent plant and the people who depend on it,” Bless said during the conference call.

First, PureCars announced its sale to TV broadcaster Raycom Media. That was last week. Now, another local technology firm may be on the road to a merger-and-acquisition deal.

Speculation circulated on social media and elsewhere that Charleston-based software firm SPARC will be scooped up. The purported buyer is management consulting and government contracting giant Booz Allen Hamilton.

“We do not comment on rumors about M&A activity,” a spokesperson for SPARC said in an email. A spokeswoman for Booz Allen Hamilton said she couldn’t comment on rumors.

SPARC is based on Clements Ferry Road near Daniel Island. McLean, Va.-based Booz Allen Hamilton has a branch office in the area.

You can’t blame the Raising Cane’s chicken-finger franchise for mistaking the home city of its newest restaurant.

After all, several of the businesses in the Wescott Plantation area along Dorchester Road have Summerville post office addresses, even though they are technically within the North Charleston city limits.

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So when Raising Cane’s painted one exterior wall of its new building at 9490 Dorchester Road with a “Raising Cane’s — Summerville” sign, North Charleston officials took notice.

“We politely reminded them that the store is very much within the city limits of North Charleston,” said City Councilman Ron Brinson, whose district includes the restaurant site. Brinson estimates about 60 percent of his constituents have “Summerville” addresses, “a confusion dating back decades,” he said.

Raising Cane’s, which opened at the site about two weeks ago, promptly changed the wall sign to reflect its true location.

Brinson said the fast-food restaurant has been “remarkably civic-minded.”

“Even before the first building permit was issued, its executives were asking for neighborhood support opportunities,” he said.

For example, the restaurant jointly funded with North Charleston a digitized marquee sign for the entrance to Fort Dorchester Elementary School, which is adjacent to the Hendon Properties shopping center that houses Raising Cane’s, a Harris Teeter grocery store and other businesses.

And on opening day, 100 percent of the restaurant’s profits were donated to the Carolina Children’s Charity, which helps with birth defects and childhood diseases. The restaurant’s crew of more than 50 employees also volunteered at Lowcountry Food Bank to help with the recent flooding disaster.

The biggest bank operating in the Charleston region and South Carolina as a whole says it was the biggest lender during the federal government’s last fiscal year under a popular U.S. Small Business Administration program.

Wells Fargo approved 120 SBA 7(a) loans totaling $24.7 million throughout South Carolina from Oct. 1, 2014, to Sept. 30, according to an announcement Friday. That was up 56 percent from the previous 12-month period, the San Francisco-based bank said. The average borrowing worked out to just shy of $206,000.

Nationwide, Wells Fargo said it approved 7,254 of the SBA loans totaling more than $1.9 billion, respective increases of 79 percent and 18 per- cent

Many banks have been expanding their SBA lending efforts in response to the gradually improving economy, which has stoked demand for small business financing.

Borrowers can use the cash to buy a business, expand to a new location, purchase equipment and acquire real estate. Loans are capped at $5 million and carry repaymant terms of seven to 25 years.

Based on deposits, Wells Fargo was by far the largest of the 90 banks operating in South Carolina as of June 30, with nearly $15 billion at 149 branches, according to the latest government data.