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Aiken County putting final touches on Bridgestone deal

Aiken County begins paperwork for agreement

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Now the rubber hits the road for Aiken County to finish the deal that will allow Bridgestone to build a manufacturing plant off Interstate 20 in the Sage Mill Industrial Park area beginning next month with land clearing.

Clay Killian, Aiken County’s administrator, said the county has started the paperwork phase that will seal the deal on the 1.5 million-square-foot, $900 million off-road tire manufacturing facility.

“We know the basics of the deal, but we have to put together all the legal documents now,” Killian said. The county council will hold meetings in October to approve them.

The county will purchase the land for $10.5 million from Wyatt Opportunity Investment Fund, which will be repaid by fees when the plant is operating.

“We’ll structure this so that the fee revenue pays for anything the county puts into the deal,” Killian said.

Killian said other manufacturing plants were structured the same way, such as the first Bridgestone plant and MTU Detroit Diesel.

The fee in lieu of tax arrangement will last 40 years, Killian said, but the county will be repaid in the first several years. The fee will also include money for the school district. He said the fee will be known in a few weeks.

The county will seek some interim financing to get the project off the ground while waiting for a special source revenue bond to be issued and the company to start paying the fee. The interim financing could include some of the county’s money and a short-term bond anticipation note.

“It is not unusual for counties to provide the fee deal, to provide a bond for infrastructure. ... It’s how the state remains competitive and how we’re able to lure businesses here,” Killian said.

The South Carolina Depart­ment of Commerce will provide $15.5 million in grants to the company for infrastructure and site preparation, including about $6 million to improve public roads adjacent to the facility. Bridgestone will get job development credits.

The county council will hold a special meeting Tuesday to have an initial reading on the ordinances on the fee agreement and purchase of the property. The next regular council meeting is Oct. 18.

The Japanese tire maker is going to spend a combined $1.2 billion on the new plant and the expansion of its passenger tire facility, the largest investment not only for South Carolina but also for the company.

Of that, $346 million will be spent to expand the passenger tire plant, which should begin in November. That will create 122 more jobs. The expansion is expected to be finished in the summer of 2013. By then, the first phase of the new tire plant should be complete, ready for equipment to be installed.

Production in the new facility, which is expected to employ 550 people, will begin in 2014, according to the company’s timeline.


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