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State panel OKs $40.5M bond for Orangeburg tire plant

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The S.C. Joint Bond Review Committee approved a proposal Tuesday for the state to borrow $40.5 million through the Joint Economic Development Bond program to build infrastructure for a new tire plant in Orangeburg County.

The panel, chaired by Gov. Henry McMaster, signed off on S.C. Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt’s request that the state finance site preparation and construction of a rail spur and roadways for a facility to be built by China-based Wanli Tire.

The project will total a $400 million investment and lead to the creation of 400 jobs, Hitt’s letter said. 

The Wanli Tire US Plant project would be constructed in two phases over a span of eight years, according to a news release. The release added that Wanli Tire, a unit of Guangzhou Vanlead Group Co., expects to invest a total of $1 billion and create 1,200 jobs at its first U.S. plant.

A Project Investment Letter of Intent was signed in April by Fu Shoujie, chairman of the Vanlead Group, and Alan Daniel Young, executive director of the Coordinating Council for Economic Development at the Commerce Department, the release added.

The first phase would be a radial tire plant for consumer tires and the second phase would be for making truck tires. The plant would have the capacity to produce 6 million consumer tires annually. 

The plant’s tentative location has not been disclosed.

The Orangeburg plant would be a major step in the company’s efforts to grow its brand in the global market.

“As a national enterprise representative of Chinese auto parts industry, we have acquired the capability to participate in the real-world competition with accumulations and innovations in more than 20 years,” Shoujie said. “We are going to build our own brand and our own channels in central region of world industrial development.”

In the release, the company cited South Carolina’s “solid industrial foundations, strong scientific strength and highly efficient labor forces.” It also noted that the state is home to BMW and more than 200 international auto parts suppliers.

South Carolina is the nation’s leading tiremaker, with the capacity for making 89,000 tires a day. Wanli would join the state’s growing tire cluster that includes Michelin, Bridgestone, Continental, Trelleborg and Giti.

Guangzhou Vanlead Group, founded in 2001, is a state-owned large industrial enterprise in Guangzhou province, specializing in the fields of rubber tire, salt chemical and fine chemicals. The group has owned 67 totally invested or holding subsidiaries, according to the company’s website.

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