Can automotive research accelerate the South Carolina economy?
The folks at Clemson think so, anyway.
The International Center for Automotive Research being built on 250,000 acres of land at Clemson University marks one of the most ambitious and, one hopes, most successful economic development projects in South Carolina history.
At ground-breaking ceremonies earlier this month, Gov. Mark Sanford accurately described the auto park as "an exciting new synergy between the automotive manufacturing segment and the high-tech knowledge-based segment of the international economy."
The Greenville facility will be owned by the university, and 84,000 square feet of it will be leased by BMW. The German automaker, the park's first non-academic tenant, will build a $15 million Information Technology Research Center designed to be one of the most outstanding research and development centers in the world.
It will focus on automotive, motor-sport and related technologies. The campus is expected to draw automotive suppliers and the motor sports industry to the I-85 motor sports corridor, according to Rosen Associates, which will develop 150 acres adjacent to the research center.
Think of the spinoff possibilities. IBM Corp. is already a part of the mix. It will be donating more than $1 million in products and services to support Clemson's graduate school of Automotive Engineering. The creation of the research campus and graduate center will make the Palmetto State a major player in the automotive world, rivaling Detroit.
The complex is expected to generate thousands of the best kind of high-paying, high-tech jobs that would redound to the economic benefit not only of the Upstate, but throughout the Southeast.
Indeed, the project is so vast and visionary that it's difficult to speculate how far it will go. But for now, let's just say it's off to a great start.