NEWBERRY COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Newberry County's once-vacant Caterpillar plant is swarming with construction crews.
The sprawling building in the county's industrial park near Interstate 26 is undergoing a rapid transformation into a Samsung appliance manufacturing facility that could be up and running early next year.
The project, which was announced in late July, is expected to create 954 jobs by 2020. But several community leaders are concerned international trade issues could cloud the plant's future.
On Thursday, a top Samsung official told a meeting of the International Trade Commission in Washington any decision by the Trump administration to impose a heavy tariff on Samsung could impact the success of the South Carolina operation.
According to a report by the McClatchy news organization, the ITC has accused Samsung of undercutting competition from domestic manufacturers by making washing machines overseas and importing them into the U.S.
Governor Henry McMaster, Rep. Ralph Norman, and others have expressed concern about the trade penalties and how they could affect one of the state's biggest economic development projects.
Among those worried about what appears to be an escalating trade dispute, Newberry County Administrator Wayne Adams.
"I think this is something we don't want to mess around with," Adams said. "It's not about ideology. It's about common sense. Samsung is a South Korean company. South Korea is one of our best allies on the world stage. Samsung has heard the call from our president to create manufacturing jobs here in this country."
"These are South Carolina jobs," Adams continued. "These are American jobs."
A few miles from the plant site, Newberry auto dealer Joe Trainor is also troubled.
"I think the downside for us is you know, we lost the Caterpillar plant and instead of making the immediate recovery we were expecting with this project, we'd be right back to square one," said Trainor.
The president has frequently hammered away at the need for the U.S. to manufacture and buy American-made goods.
But it is not clear whether the president will support slapping Samsung with sanctions.