Samsung grand opening

Gov. Henry McMaster (center) helps cut a ceremonial ribbon at Samsung's appliance plant in Newberry in early 2018. Also in attendance were (to McMaster's right) U.S. Sen. Tim Scott and U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman. File/Seanna Adcox/Staff

President Donald Trump's tariffs on imported washing machines, designed to help U.S. manufacturers, wound up soaking American consumers.

So says a new study by the University of Chicago and the Federal Reserve Board that found the tariffs raised the median price of the everyday appliances by $86, or 11.5 percent.

The cost of dryers also went up — by $92, or 11.4 percent — even though dryers weren't subject to tariffs. Apparently, manufacturers raised the price on those machines, too, knowing that people typically buy both of them as a set.

The reason for the  hike: U.S. manufacturers took advantage of the tariff-related rise in the cost of foreign-made machines by raising their own prices to match them.

So, regardless of whether a U.S. consumer bought a domestic- or foreign-made brand, the end result was, well, a wash.

The study showed the tariffs — which range from 20 percent to 50 percent — did create about 1,800 jobs as foreign manufacturers brought some production to the U.S. to avoid the tariffs.

For example, South Korea-based Samsung opened a $380 million home appliance plant in Newberry County a little more than a year ago. It employs about 650 workers.

But the tariff-related jobs come with a high cost, according to the study.

Researchers found the import fees are generating about $82 million for the U.S. government each year. By contrast, U.S. consumers are paying $1.5 billion extra per year for washers and dryers.

The math works out to $815,000 that consumers are paying for each of the 1,800 U.S. jobs the tariffs have created.

Mill

A close up of the electric arc furnace at Liberty Steel Georgetown. FIle/Nadea Celac/South Strand News

Firing back up

The wire rod mill Liberty Steel owns in Georgetown is back up and running following an April 13 furnace fire that shut down the plant.

The blaze broke out after a spill from a "tundish" — a container used to feed molten metal into a mold — damaged electrical circuits, according to news reports.

Liberty bought the mill along the Sampit River in late 2017 and has been ramping up production and hiring. At full capacity, the site can produce 680,000 tons of steel a year.

Meanwhile, a local-option 1 percent sales tax increase that Georgetown County voters approved in 2015 to fund capital projects — including deepening Georgetown's harbor — expires on Tuesday, when the rate reverts back to 6 percent.

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The hope was that dredging would spur a revival at the ailing Port of Georgetown, which has seen a steady decline in breakbulk cargo as silt fills the waterway. There was 55,684 tons of cargo at the port in 2016 and just 5,949 tons in 2017. Last year, the port recorded zero tons of cargo.

It's unlikely that project will ever get underway because it would cost at least $70 million to dredge the harbor to 27 feet. The state-run port doesn't generate enough business to justify spending that much money.

Instead, the roughly $40 million raised by the expiring tax increase has been spent on projects such as dredging Murrells Inlet and the construction of fire stations and substations.

Pee Dee spec growth

Moncks Corner-based electric utility Santee Cooper is loaning $1.5 million to the Marion County Development Commission to help build a speculative building at the Marion County Industrial Park.

The 101,522-square-foot building is along U.S. Highway 501 about a half-mile from the intersection of U.S. Highway 76. County officials hope the structure attracts new manufacturing jobs to the state's Pee Dee region, near an inland port where CSX Corp. trains haul cargo to and from the Port of Charleston.

The Santee Cooper financing is among half a dozen funding sources for the construction project, which started last year.

 

Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_