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Pushing for more tech companies, Richland County extends tax breaks to expanding firm

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Irmo-based IMCS biotechnology company is aiding in research of treatments for neurodegenerative diseases. Jessica Holdman/Staff

COLUMBIA — Making good on its updated strategy of targeting the technology industry, Richland County extended another economic development deal to a tech company — its third in five months.

Richland County Council voted April 6 to provide tax credits to Irmo-based IMCS, short for Integrated Micro-Chromatography Systems Inc. The company is expanding its operations in Richland County, investing $4.1 million in equipment and a third building, and with it, adding 31  jobs over the next five years.

In exchange, the company will receive credits to buy down its tax bill — equivalent to 35 percent of the investments it makes — over the next 10 years.

“Over the past several years, IMCS has experienced considerable success as a part of the Richland County business community,” said CEO Andrew Lee. “The tax incentives provided by the county will allow us to continue investing in people, capital equipment and facilities to expand our company and increase economic development in the county.”

IMCS got its start engineering and producing enzymes, which speed up chemical reactions in the body, like those that break down food during digestion, and using them to make corporate drug testing faster and more accurate. But the company has been expanding into other areas.

The firm recently won a federal contract putting enzymes to work aiding in scientific advances to treat diseases from Alzheimer's to Parkinson's, as well as some cancers. 

The company also is finding success adding its own innovations to a common lab tool called a pipette tip, used to measure and move liquidized samples between  containers. IMCS made it faster by adding a chemical separator inside the tips themselves, reducing a step along with the chance for contamination and error.

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“County Council is always eager to support growing businesses in Richland County, and it is especially exciting to watch a company like IMCS get its start here and achieve so much,” said Paul Livingston, chair of Richland County Council. 

The tax credits were approved by a vote of 9-1, with councilman Bill Malinowski casting the lone objection.

ICMS currently has 40 full-time employees, with 600 clients across the United States and 15 other countries.

The city of Columbia and surrounding counties first announced their shift in economic development focus to target high-paying, fast-growing technology and software companies, as well as biomedical firms, in July 2020. Business leaders say this plays to the area's existing industry and academic strengths while tech's lesser square footage requirements also provide a workaround to the competitive disadvantage of a high property tax burden.

In addition to IMCS, Richland County Council approved a tax deal for Sensor Electronic Technology Inc. — SETI for short — a Columbia ultraviolet LED maker that has expanded into the central air and ventilation business amid the coronavirus pandemic and is selling its technology as an air-sterilization system.

The company, a subsidiary of South Korea-based Seoul Semiconductor and Seoul Viosys, agreed in December 2020 to invest $55 million and add 40 jobs to its facility on Atlas Road.

Then in February, insurance provider BlueCross BlueShield, which has an insurance technology arm, received an extension of existing tax credits as it agreed to hire 700 new workers and invest $60 million in equipment.

Reach Jessica Holdman at Follow her @jmholdman on Twitter.

Jessica Holdman is a business reporter for The Post & Courier covering Columbia. Prior to moving to South Carolina, she reported on business in North Dakota for The Bismarck Tribune and has previously written for The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash.

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