President Donald Trump’s foreign trade policy and use of tariffs has contributed to a slowdown in large scale corporate investments across many parts of South Carolina, economic development officials said this week.
“The tariff side is really making an impact across a variety of spectrums and industries. I think we hear about it a lot in the Upstate because it’s affecting the automotive industry, but it really is hitting a lot of different industries,” Lindsey Cannon, director of Greenville-based Quest Site Solutions, told members of the Greenwood Partnership Alliance governing board on Monday.
The topic arose during a discussion about Duke Energy’s site readiness program, which works to evaluate and assess industrial parcels for potential development.
Since its inception in 2005, nearly 300 sites have been reviewed across the Carolinas, resulting in 9,200 jobs and $7.6 billion worth of capital investments.
Greenwood has had eight sites go through the program — more than any other county in the state.
“We’ve been in more sites in Greenwood County than we have in any other single county, and that’s a credit to your economic development team because it’s a lot of hard work to respond to this thing,” said Randy Broome, a Duke Energy senior consultant. “Hats off to Greenwood for continuing to be aggressive with your product inventory by using this program.”
In recent years, a number of Greenwood County’s most recognizable manufacturers — Ascend Performance Materials, Capsugel and Fujifilm among them — have announced competitive expansions.
That’s in line with what many corporations are doing in lieu of new construction as uncertainty around tariffs continues to exist, said Sarah White, a director with Quest.
“Those are some great projects, and they don’t get all the attention but it really helps, too, in the recruit of new companies. I think some of the tariffs and things are why some people are doing expansions and things instead of pulling the trigger on new facilities. We’re seeing a little bit of uncertainty where people may be putting on that Band-Aid for now,” White said. “Some of that uncertainty that’s out there is why I think we’ve seen an uptick on that expansion side.”
Steve West, who’s spent nearly 20 years as a Duke economic development director, agreed.
“The number of projects that we’re seeing is down. The number of projects the Department of Commerce is seeing is down. The projects that are coming through are good projects, but the numbers aren’t as big. A $100 million project is way exceptional now,” he said. “I have personally got three very large, international projects that were well on their way and then five or so months ago, things got kind of stirred up at 3 a.m. with a Twitter account. They’ve put the brakes on those really big projects, (but) they’re not dead. They’re finishing projects in other parts of the world and then hopefully things will settle at some point soon, and hopefully, they’ll come back to visit us.”