Originally created 01/26/01

Business investing moves up



Aiken County ranks second in the state in terms of capital investment by businesses, according to figures released Wednesday by the state of South Carolina.

More than $562 million in planned capital investments were announced by 48 major companies in the county last year, making it second only to Greenville County, which has three times Aiken County's population.

Just under half of the planned investments were announced by Westinghouse Savannah River Co., operator of Savannah River Site.

Greenville County surpassed Aiken County by more than $400 million. Spartanburg County, which has twice the number of people as Aiken County, ranked third with $528 million.

The numbers were part of the state Commerce Department's 2000 annual economic report.

The latest population estimates list Aiken County with 135,401 residents.

"This year we worked even harder. I think you'll find it well paid off," said Tim Dangerfield, chairman of the board for the Economic Development Partnership, which represents Aiken and Edgefield counties. He said continued reinvestment by existing companies is as important as investments by new industries.

Edgefield County created 760 jobs, 310 of which stem from the planned move of VF Playwear from Augusta to Trenton.

Fueling the Aiken County investment figures are projects announced by large private-sector projects, including South Carolina Electric & Gas' new natural gas-fired generating plant and Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s tissue mill expansion.

Westinghouse announced $251 million in investment for future missions that will benefit Aiken and Barnwell counties economically.

The figure represents a combination of project work, sub-contracted work and other procurements in South Carolina. In 2000, the Department of Energy announced SRS was the preferred site for future plutonium disposition missions that could, in years to come, result in more than $1 billion in investment at the site.

"The Savannah River Site is the engine of this community," Mr. Dangerfield said. "It's good to see they are still expanding."

SCE&G's $180 million project will provide new electric generation capacity and improve air quality at the Urquhart Generating Station in Beech Island. The plant's transition from a coal-burning process should eliminate 90 percent of its emissions within three years after its completion in June 2002.

Kimberly-Clark's expanded plant will produce the new Cottonelle Fresh Rollwipes, a moist toilet paper. The company invested $80 million in the top-secret project, whose details were announced this month. Construction on the 130,000-square-foot building next to existing facilities is expected to be finished by the end of March.

Aiken Conty ranked seventh in capital investment announcements in 1999 and first 1998, the year Bridgestone/Firestone stated its intent to build its plant just outside of the city of Aiken.

Reach Eric Williamson at (706) 828-3904.