Wal-Mart plans to expand in state: New stores, 4,000 jobs part of $400M investment


WEST COLUMBIA -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced Wednesday that it will bring 4,000 new jobs to South Carolina, an investment of $400 million in the state over the next five years.

"We believe South Carolina is a great place for us to invest and a great place to grow," Bill Simon, the company's chief executive officer for U.S. operations, said at a news conference alongside Gov. Nikki Haley.

The announcement comes one week after lawmakers balked at a tax break for Amazon.com in South Carolina, with House legislators rejecting efforts to give the online retailing giant a break from collecting sales taxes.

State economic developers had told Amazon they would make their best effort to renew an expired break, but legislators rejected the effort after Haley opposed it.

Amazon then pulled the plug on what was to be a 1,200-plus employee distribution center in Lexington County, a $100 million investment.

Haley said Wednesday that Wal-Mart's plans had been in the works for months and had nothing to do with Amazon's withdrawal.

Wal-Mart was part of the effort that defeated the Amazon tax break. The company and local businesses said the deal would give Amazon an unfair advantage.

"We want Amazon in this state, but we want to keep a competitive playing field," said Haley, adding that state officials were still in communication with Amazon.

Over the next five years, Wal-Mart plans to open at least a dozen new stores throughout South Carolina, as well as relocate and expand existing stores, company spokesman Daniel Morales said.

Morales outlined plans for six of the company's stores across the state, saying new stores will be built in Fort Mill and Bennettsville, renovations will occur in Easley and Lake City, and expansions are planned for James Island and Hilton Head Island.

Wal-Mart filed plans this year to add 17,000 square feet to the Folly Road store on James Island. It is the only one of the company's 10 stores in the Charleston metro area that is not a supercenter with a complete grocery line.

Wal-Mart said the stores will include energy-efficient technology and sustainable features to reduce energy and water consumption and minimize waste.

The investment also will provide jobs to local construction companies and continue Wal-Mart's pledge to buy more produce from South Carolina's farmers.

Wal-Mart has 77 stores in South Carolina, nine Sam's Club locations, including one in North Charleston, and two distribution centers, providing a full-time average hourly wage of $12.80 per hour.

Warren L. Wise of The Post and Courier contributed to this report.