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A Volvo sign advertises the company's first factory for cars in the U.S. The plant is under construction off Interstate 26 near Ridgeville in fast-growing Berkeley County. File/Leroy Burnell/Staff 

With work on Volvo's only North American manufacturing facility progressing, Berkeley County is taking steps to build a new training center at the Swedish automaker's Camp Hall Industrial Campus site near Ridgeville.

Construction of the $500 million manufacturing center's three major buildings — an assembly plant, body shop and paint shop — is complete and Volvo has started installing equipment at the site, according to Stephanie Mangini, Volvo's corporate communications manager.

"We're on track for Volvo Cars to begin producing the all-new S60 sedans by the end of 2018," Mangini said.

The car maker has already started taking job applications and, on Monday, Berkeley County Council's purchasing committee approved a nearly $8.7 million construction contract for a training center at the Camp Hall site. The contract with Hitt Contracting Inc., which is based in Falls Church, Va., calls for the 43,000-square-foot facility to be completed this fall.

Hitt Contracting has been involved in several Charleston area projects, including construction of the $15 million Memminger Elementary School and the $22.6 million Addlestone Library at the College of Charleston. 

An incentives agreement between the state's Commerce Department and Volvo calls for the county to spend up to $4 million on the 43,000-square-foot center. The county plans to borrow the money from state-owned utility Santee Cooper, and will repay the loan from an annual fee Volvo will pay instead of property taxes.

South Carolina will pay the rest of the training center's construction costs. Volvo will lease the facility from the state for 10 years. The training center will be sold to Volvo for a "nominal amount" at the end of the 10-year lease period, according to the agreement.

The state also is paying up to $70 million toward construction of the new manufacturing facility and will build a new interchange along Interstate 26 near mile marker 189 leading to the site. The training center will be visible from the highway.

ReadySC — a training program run by the state's technical college system — will work with Volvo to recruit and train at least 2,000 workers for the plant's initial production phase. ReadySC also will provide the equipment needed for training. Volvo currently has several job openings for the new facility posted at www.mau.com/volvo-jobs.

"We hope they're going to push as hard as they can to hire as many Berkeley County residents as they can," county deputy supervisor Les Blankenship said.  

Mangini said Volvo plans to start using the training facility during the fourth quarter of this year.

The Berkeley County plant will make 100,000 cars a year, including the newly designed S60 sedan and another model that has not been announced. Hakan Samuelsson, Volvo's president and chief executive, said earlier this year the plant might also build a remodeled XC60 SUV. The company plans to export as many as 70,000 cars a year through the Port of Charleston.

Brenda Rindge of The Post and Courier contributed to this report. Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_