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(Photo: FRED ROLLISON/File)
BMW’s Lasting Impact by Maayan Schechter
The BMW effect on the Upstate and the entire state of South Carolina is hard to miss.
While billions of dollars have been funneled directly and indirectly into the state, the cultural influence of BMW has also spread across the region. It introduced the Upstate to Germany, especially European business owners looking for a place to work and live. Locals have benefited from European tastes that have come with the people working for those companies.
The most recent economic study done by the University of South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business, reported BMW’s impact corresponds to 30,777 jobs and $1.8 billion in labor income for South Carolina that would not exist otherwise.
For every job created at the Spartanburg County plant, an additional three jobs are created elsewhere in the state, the report said.
“We went from being a Southern textile community to being an international mecca for industry,” Britt said. He pointed at tire companies and aerospace company Boeing in North Charleston all being a result of BMW.
“Without it, I mean it is scary to think, not only (what) Spartanburg would look like, but what South Carolina would look like.”
Butch Kirven, Greenville County Council chair, said his county has benefited greatly from BMW as far as companies and suppliers that have picked to locate in the region.
"We continue to work with companies that come here because of BMW," he said. "And actually BMW, actually, introduced an automotive sector to this region of the Southeast, with the Volvo plant (in Berkeley County), Clemson’s ICAR (International Center for Automotive Research)."
Though BMW never annexed into Greer, Mayor Rick Danner said the company opening shop in the Upstate put the region on the map worldwide.
"(BMW’s) presence speaks volumes to the international business community to how they have been welcomed and successful here," Danner said.
The plant produces more than 1,400 cars per day, and last year made 411,711 vehicles — its largest annual production volume in the plant’s history. BMW produced its first car at the plant in September 1994. Since then, the plant has produced more than 3.7 million vehicles
The lasting economic impact also can be traced to the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport as well as the Inland Port in Greer that opened in 2013 and ships parts and finished products for BMW and other companies between Greer and the Port of Charleston.
The Inland Port also takes built and painted bodies, helping to ship those bodies to other countries that use their own or NAFTA suppliers to assemble their car.
While the Port of Charleston is the primary port for BMW, the company also uses ports in Jacksonville and Miami, where exports head to between 130 and 140 countries worldwide.
Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the S.C. Ports Authority, said BMW operations in South Carolina are a tremendous asset to the port and a key driver in automotive manufacturing for both import and export volume growth. BMW exported more than $10.5 billion in products last year.
“BMW’s multiple expansions have been exciting opportunities for the port, and we value our role in its international supply chain. We look forward to a strong continued partnership and congratulate BMW on 25 years in South Carolina,” Newsome said
S.C. Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt, who spent 18 years heading public affairs at BMW before joining the the department, said the German automaker’s footprint in the state was a "fundamental game changer" that helped to diversify South Carolina’s workforce, from just agriculture and textiles to automotive and aviation, big farmer and tourism.
"It basically moved us from being sort of generic state to a name-brand state," he said. "What BMW did was demonstrate the capability of the workforce in this state, and from there, we have just moved forward, forward and forward."