Tariff threat still looms as Samsung launches Newberry plant

NEWBERRY COUNTY, SC (WIS) - A new day has dawned in Newberry – according to the governor, businesses owners, and local leaders.

Samsung cut the ribbon on its new plant just off I-26 on Friday – a plant that'll build washing machines to the tune of a thousand jobs.

But, a move by one of Samsung's competitors still threatens Samsung's future here in South Carolina.

"In the words of that famous philosopher Tim McGraw – also known as a country-western singer – we like it, we love it, we want some more of it!" Gov. Henry McMaster said.

That "it" is Samsung.

Governor McMaster helped the tech-giant cut the ribbon on its brand new Newberry plant – a plant that should create a million washing machines this year, create a thousand jobs by 2020, and inject new life into a community that needs it.

Beth Hipp, who owns a boutique downtown, already sees that new life.

"This is very big for Newberry," Hipp said. "It's a town that's been dying for a while and now growing again, and this is just going to bring a rebirth and a renaissance to Newberry with an influx of industry and an influx of people."

But, even as work making washers begins, a cloud on the horizon looms large.

South Korea-based Samsung's U.S.-based competitor, Whirlpool, has complained to a federal trade panel – and that panel has sided with Whirlpool.

Insiders say Whirlpool is losing customers to Samsung, so now, it's hoping the federal government will put steep tariffs on the appliances Samsung imports to the U.S.

The fear is – those steep tariffs might slow down or stop Samsung's growth in Newberry.

"It's like you buying a car – paying for it – and all of a sudden them saying, 'By the way, you've got a 50 percent tax you've got to pay on that car.' It doesn't make sense," Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) said.

Rep. Norman and others have asked President Donald Trump to side with Samsung because the tariff decision is ultimately in his hands.

"Hopefully, I'm cautiously optimistic we're going to be successful," Rep. Norman said.

Hipp hopes so, too.

"It's a good thing for the country," Hipp said. "We certainly wouldn't want to do something that's not a good thing for the country. We hope that he will consider that."

South Carolina's newest manufacturing plant had its grand opening Friday even as fears abound about aggressive tariffs that could ultimately put the new plant in jeopardy.

Samsung Electronics' Newberry-based plant will receive the pomp and circumstance of yore as politicians, state, and local officials will appear to tout America and South Carolina's manufacturing future.

But tariffs proposed by Samsung competitor Whirlpool believes the government should penalize the company's existing imports of washers from South Korea, where Samsung is based.

Eventually, Samsung should employ 1,000 workers in Newberry. However, a company executive said Friday that he doesn't think a thousand will be enough and seemed to promise more.

President Donald Trump has until Feb. 19 to make a decision.

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