May 08--ANDERSON -- Anderson County is courting a few companies that together could bring $1 billion in investment and 480 jobs to the Upstate in the short term and could double those numbers within 10 years, economic development director Burriss Nelson said Wednesday.
"There is always competition for projects, for companies, for industry," he said. "We want to make all of these feel right at home in Anderson County."
The largest immediate investment the county is courting, $600 million, counts on Duke Energy's plans to build a natural-gas-fired plant south of Pelzer, at the site of the W.S. Lee Steam Station overlooking the Saluda River. The Anderson County Council voted 6-0 Tuesday night on a preliminary set of incentives for the company but elected officials and Nelson are still calling the plans only by their code name, Project Mystery Green.
Council member Ken Waters, who works for Duke Energy, said that he had a conflict of interest and left the meeting at the historic courthouse downtown while the vote was taken.
Anderson County plans to offer Duke Energy 40 years of tax breaks and infrastructure credits for the project. Officials will also ensure that the plant is included in a multicounty business park, a move that makes projects eligible for other credits and breaks from the state.
Once built, the plant would employ 25 people, each making an average of $30 an hour. The 20-year economic ripple effect expected within the region from the plant is $376 million.
The second company the county is trying to lure is known only by its code name, Project Current. Nelson said the company has a goal of being operational in the county by next spring, bringing 250 jobs and a $16.5 million investment.
A third unidentified company, known only as Project Cloud, is considering an expansion in Anderson County that would bring 200 new jobs, each paying an average of $14 an hour.
Nelson said Wednesday that the company that seems the smallest is the one he's most excited about because of its potential. Thus far code-named Project Choco, the company is "a spinoff of Clemson University intellectual properties," Nelson said.
The company could bring about 40 jobs and $1 million to the county initially.
"This is the first entrepreneurial venture from Clemson University that Anderson County has been so intimately involved in," Nelson said. "It has the potential to become one of those great companies you hear about years from now, one of those like the major companies that get started in somebody's garage."
The average pay for those jobs is more than $74,000 annually.
"This company can give us jobs with incomes that are twice our county's average income," Nelson said. "To be in on that from the ground floor is wonderful. These are the kind of jobs that keep our people at home instead of moving away to look for work."
The 20-year economic effect of the project is estimated at $58 million.
Council member Cindy Wilson said this week that the county's ties to strong schools -- including Clemson University, Anderson University and Tri-County Technical College -- have proved to be valuable assets for attracting economic development.
Council Chairman Tommy Dunn credited the county's elected officials for roles in wooing companies.
"We don't create the jobs, but we sure don't stop them," Dunn said. "We are as business friendly as anybody you'll find in South Carolina."
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