Around the region: BMW expansion to create 300 jobs

Published 1:16 pm Thursday, January 19, 2012

BMW’s Spartanburg County plant is growing again. The automaker announced it will invest $900 million in the plant over the next three years and create 300 new jobs. The investment will allow BMW to expand production of its X-model family with a new BMW X4 and raise its production capacity at the plant to 350,000 units annually. Last year the plant produced 276,065 vehicles, a 73 percent increase over 2010. About 70 percent of the vehicles produced at the Spartanburg plant were exported last year, going to more than 130 markets around the world..

“This is one reaction to the rising global demand for our BMW X models,” said Frank-Peter Arndt, a BMW Group Board Member responsible for production.
BMW’s latest expansion will raise its total investment in South Carolina to nearly $6 billion and lift employment at the Spartanburg County plant to 7,500 by the end of this year. The automaker decided in 1992 to build its only U.S. plant in South Carolina, and began operations at the Spartanburg plant in 1994 with 500 employees. The automaker recently celebrated the production milestone of 2,000,000 vehicles made at the Spartanburg plant.

(source: S.C. Department of Commerce, 1/12/12)

 

***

 

Duke Energy has agreed to shut down more of its older power plants to end a lawsuit against its new, 825-megawatt Cliffside plant in Rutherford County. A group of environmental organizations agreed to drop the lawsuit in exchange for Duke’s commitment to close approximately 1,600 megawatts of older, less efficient coal plants. The environmental groups challenged the state’s decision in 2009 to issue an air-quality permit for the $1.8 billion coal plant expansion at Cliffside, claiming Duke violated federal requirements for utilities to use the most efficient available technology. Duke has claimed the new Cliffside generator will use the most efficient technology for reducing pollutants from coal-fired plants. Duke initially committed to closing about 1,000 megawatts of older coal plants, and said it expected to close the additional plants in the future. Duke commits in the settlement to close the full 1,600 megawatts of older plants. The organizations that filed a lawsuit against Duke include the Environmental Defense Fund, National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. Duke Energy spokesman said the utility is pleased to resolve the legal issues relating to the Cliffside plant, which is now nearly complete. The utility says it has begun start-up tests for the new plant and plans to start producing power later this year. The less efficient plants to be closed include four of the oldest units at Cliffside, which were already shut down. The utility says it will shut down the remainder of the plants listed in the settlement by 2015. “This settlement phases our some of the oldest, dirtiest and most inefficient coal plants in the Carolinas,” says John Suttles, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “In addition to protecting people’s health and saving lives, it also will save ratepayers’ money by paving the way for a more efficient and sustainable energy future.

(source: Charlotte Business Journal, 1/17/12)

***

South Carolina was one of the most popular destinations for people moving in 2011, according to the latest Magnet States Report from Allied Van Lines. The company says South Carolina had the third largest net relocation gain in the country last year with 489 more families moving in than moving out. Texas ranked first with a net gain of 1,556, followed by Florida with 809. North Carolina had almost an equal number moving in and moving out with a net relocation loss of four. Allied says it recorded 2,741 families moving in to North Carolina last year, while 2,745 moved out. The moving company says 1,305 families moved out of South Carolina last year, while 1,794 moved in. Georgia also had a net gain with 244 more families moving in than moving out. After years as one of the leading outbound states, California had a net relocation gain of 347, and it was the most mobile state with more than 12,000 interstate moves. Illinois had the largest net relocation loss (1,198), followed by Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey and New York.  Allied Van Lines said an increase in relocations “are consistent with what we’ve seen when the economy begins to emerge from a recessionary period,” said Vice President and General Manager Bill Lyon. “Relocation for employment is the leading motivation for an individual to move.”

(source: www.gsabusiness.com, 1/3/12; www.prnewswire.com, 1/3/12)

***

South Carolina had the second highest increase nationally in home prices in November, according to the CoreLogic home price index. The company reported that home prices were up 2.8 percent in South Carolina in November compared to a year earlier.  That increase trailed only Vermont at 4.3 percent.  South Carolina also had the second highest appreciation in November excluding distressed sales, which include short sales and real estate owned transactions. CoreLogic reports South Carolina had a 4.9 percent increase in home prices excluding distressed sales, second only to Maine at 4.9 percent.  South Carolina was one of 13 states that had a price increase in November including distressed sales.  Nationally, home prices in November declined 4.3 percent with distressed sales and 0.6 percent without them. Nevada had the largest price decline at 11.2 percent, followed by Illinois (9.7 percent), Minnesota (7.8 percent) and Georgia (7.7 percent). North Carolina had a price decline of just 0.8 percent including distressed sales and 0.3 percent without.  “With one month of data left to report, it appears that the healthy, non-distressed market will be very modestly down in 2011,” says CoreLogic chief economist Mark Fleming. “Distressed sales continue to put downward pressure on prices, and (that) is a factor that must be addressed in 2012 for a housing recovery to become a reality.”
(source: www.corelogic.com)

***

A report by his Global Insight shows the Charlotte metropolitan area is adding jobs faster than many metro areas in the country, although it still lags behind pre-recession employment levels. The report, prepared for this year’s U.S. Conference of Mayors, calls for two percent employment growth in the Charlotte area in 2012, well above the national forecast of 1.3 percent growth. The nation is expected to have recovered about 48 percent of the jobs lost during the recession by the end of this year, while Charlotte is expected to be back to only about 40 percent of pre-recession employment. According to the analysis by IHS Global Insight, Charlotte’s employment will be fully recovered by 2014 or 2015. About 52 metro areas are expected to have completely recovered jobs lost during the recession by the end of this year, while 99 more will have regained about half of the jobs lost.  The IHS report on 363 metro areas showed the country added more than 1.6 million jobs in 2011, the first year of net gains after three years of net job losses.
(source: www.charlotteobserver.com, 1/18/12)

***

Daimler Trucks North America announced it plans to add 1,200 jobs in the Charlotte area. The company says it will add 1,101 jobs at its Freightliner truck plant in Rowan County and about 100 jobs at its parts plant in Gastonia. The company says it will add a second shift at the Cleveland plant in Rowan County, hiring back many workers who were laid off in 2009. “We at Daimler have successfully left the recession behind,” says Daimler’s chief operating officer Roger Nielsen.  Hiring is expected to begin in February and the company says it should reach full capacity by September. Daimler currently employs more than 4,800 people at facilities in Cleveland, Gastonia, Mount Holly and High Point.
(source: Charlotte Business Journal, 1/12/12)

***

PNC Financial Services says it plans to lay off 621 people in North Carolina after completing the acquisition of RBC Bank USA, based in Raleigh. Pittsburgh-based PNC says the layoffs will be in Wake County and Rocky Mount.  PNC announced last June that it would acquire RBC, the banking arm of Royal Bank of Canada, for $3.45 billion. PNC says some of the layoffs will be offset by new hires in Raleigh and Rocky Mount, although it did not specify how many new jobs it expected to create.
(source: Pittsburgh Business Times, Charlotte Business Journal, /9/12)

***

A large mixed-use development on Main Street in downtown Greenville is moving ahead after below-market financing was secured for the project. Greenville New Markets Opportunity LLC said more than $18.5 million is available for the Hughes Development Corp. project at the corner of Main and Washington streets. The development, located next to Piazza Bergamo, is expected to include the corporate headquarters of CertusBank, which will employ 350 people. The women’s retail store Anthropologie and Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd P.A. law firm, employing 100 people, also plan to occupy the development.
Bob Hughes, president of Hughes Development Corp, said the new markets tax credit financing from Greenville New Markets Opportunity LLC helped pull the financing package together, along with additional new markets tax credit and debt financing by TD Bank. “New markets tax credits allowed us to afford a site that owners had been assembly for year, many of them the high-priced years,” said Hughes. “They also allowed us to partner with the city, requiring less city investment for a project intended to revitalize this entire end of town.” An analysis by Implan forecasts that Project One will provide 544 jobs during the construction period and 672 permanent jobs. Phase one, including 40,000 to 50,000 square feet of retail and 135,000 square feet of office space, is expected to begin in July.  Up to 11 stories and an additional 200,000-square-feet of office space or a hotel is planned in phase two.

“There will be more people on the street, shopping, eating and walking,” said Greenville Mayor Knox White when the project was announced last May. “I think we’ll have as strong of a retail component as any downtown in America.”
(source: www.gsabusines.com, 1/17/12)

 

***

Buncombe County has new rules aimed at limiting the amount of light that comes from outdoor lights. County commissioners approved this week the new rules, which went beyond even the recommendations of the county planning board.  The planning board recommended new rules to limit light pollution from new commercial and industrial developments. County commissioners decided to extend limits to new high density residential developments. The rules do not apply to single family homes, or new public buildings. The new rules limit the amount of light that reaches the property line of new developments. Light must be directed where it is needed, and the placement of street lights is restricted. Commissioners also went beyond the planning board’s recommendation in requiring “dusk-to-dawn utility/security” lights to be in compliance with the new rules within five years.
At a public hearing before commissioners this week, Calvin Chrisman said light should be directed to the ground, not the sky. He said he lives on a mountain about 1,500 feet above Garren Creek in Fairview, but he can clearly see lights in the development. “If they are shining at me,” he said, “they are shining into neighbor’s bedrooms, glaring into the streets.”
However, Kathy Rhodarmer urged commissioners to think of the elderly, and she asked them to consider the cost of required upgrades. “I’ve never seen so many people who want to tell others what to do,” she said.

(source: Asheville Citizen-Times, 1/18/12)