McMaster signs record-breaking $1.3 billion incentive package to bring Scout Motors to Richland County

Scout Motors to provide 4,000 new jobs for Richland County.
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Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 11:21 AM EDT

RICHLAND COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - On Monday, Governor Henry McMaster signed a record-breaking $1.3 billion incentive package to bring Volkswagen-backed Scout Motors to the town of Blythewood in northeast Richland County.

The company plans to invest $2 billion to build an 1100-acre-electric vehicle plant, deliver 4,000 jobs to the community and start making the cars by 2026.

RELATED STORY: S.C. used $1.2B incentives package to bring Scout Motors to Blythewood

McMaster said this is a “transformative” day for South Carolina, one that will usher in a new era of economic success for the state for decades and generations to come.

The fact that one of the world’s largest companies chose South Carolina, and specifically the Midlands, shows the strength of the state’s people, McMaster said.

“The fascinating part is the vision of Scout, of Volkswagen as expressed by Scout, and the vision of the people of South Carolina, that have matched so perfectly to make this day come so quickly with such a great moment,” he said.

The signing of House Bill 3604, also known as the “The Scout Bill,” Monday makes the state’s partnership with Scout Motors official.

It also is the largest incentive package in state history.

“I think when I look at this state and everyone we’ve dealt with, they have been on the field from day one of us entering here,” Scout Motors President and CEO Scott Keogh said. “I think when you’re on the field, in a few years from now they’re going to be able to celebrate. There’s going to be hundreds of thousands of incredible Scout trucks spidering and navigating this great country. And they’re going to be able to say, ‘yeah, I was there. I did that. I helped be part of that.’”

The incentive package also includes the construction of a new highway interchange off Interstate 77, and other traffic improvements around the Blythewood site.

An additional $25 million will be put toward a training center at Midlands Technical College to build up the Scout workforce.

Richland County Council Chairman Overture Walker said the concerns from the community about traffic are valid, but he believes both the new interchange, which he said would divert drivers from Blythewood Road directly to the facility and the current widening of Blythewood Road through the county penny tax program, will reduce those issues.

RELATED STORY: Blythewood residents react to Scout Motors possible move to area

“Residents of Blythewood would also be able to use that interchange as well,” Walker said. “So if anything, this project is going to alleviate traffic congestion as well as assuage those concerns that residents may have about traffic.”

The Department of Commerce broke down other details of the package, which include:

  • $650 million – To use for construction of a new I-77 interchange, area road improvements to mitigate traffic problems for residents, construction of a railroad bridge over I-77, water and wastewater infrastructure, and mass grading and wetlands mitigation.
  • $400 million grant – For hard assets as determined by the company.
  • $16 million – To acquire property to connect to the Class I rail mainline.
  • $200 million loan – For soil stabilization. To be repaid by Scout Motors with 5% interest.

Keogh said Blythewood was selected after an exhaustive search that looked at 74 locations around the country.

He told WIS that three factors were key to that decision.

“I think the first thing, obviously, is the infrastructure,” Keogh said. “I think, as you can imagine, a site like this is immensely complicated. People think, ‘Well, it’s just land and land is land.’ But of course, you need the infrastructure behind it, the logistics, you need rail, you need water, you need energy. And so that whole package was ready to go, which was exciting. I think the most important thing, and the second thing, of course, is the talent. You need a workforce that’s motivated, you need a workforce of course that has the education levels and everything that’s needed to succeed. And then the third thing, which was probably one of the biggest ones as well is the state was absolutely ready.”

Negotiations on this package moved quickly.

Scout Motors and the state started negotiating just a few months ago.

Some lawmakers criticized what they say is a “gamble” and a rushed process.

However, McMaster said the state was prepared in mind and resources for a deal like this, and no stone was left unturned throughout the process.

“The process that we used here with meetings, with dinners, with a meeting with the legislators and having everyone involved from the very beginning and understanding what was happening, and why it was happening, and what the possibilities were, that’s what allowed us to move so quickly,” McMaster said.

McMaster also responded to criticism from the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which claimed the company was “woke.”

The governor said this is a “great partnership,” and noted that Scout will be hiring South Carolinians to produce the vehicles.

The deal includes several provisions that would have Scout pay the state up to $790 million if certain job commitments are not met.

State Commerce Secretary Harry Lightsey said he is confident that none of those provisions will be triggered, and he believes the Scout Motors partnership will be an “incredible success” for the state.

The new facility will produce more than 200,000 all-electric Scout SUVs and pick-up trucks per year.

Scout Motors is currently evaluating the potential for outside investment, according to a press release.

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