Element Electronics in Winnsboro (35 minutes north of Columbia on I-77) employs 134 people as the country’s only TV assembly plant but layoffs are set to begin Oct. 5 if waivers to a 25% tariff fail to appear. It’s owned by a Minnesota holding company and builds flat-screen TVs sold at Walmart (although the town’s only Walmart closed two years ago) with all its main parts imported from China. Since its arrival in 2013 that included a $1.25 million rural economic development grant to Fairfield County, the business model of a miniscule profit margin relied on free trade arrangements such as the U.S. Miscellaneous Trade Bill, which recently expired and has yet to be renewed, thus further eroding profits to a 4.5% import tax. Fairfield County’s workforce is below 10,000 people, its 5.7% unemployment is the state’s second highest and 34% live in high poverty.
The newly opened Mercedes-Benz Vans commercial cargo vehicle plant in North Charleston has a prime customer – Amazon will purchase 20,000 branded Sprinters from the $500 million factory at Palmetto Commerce Park. It represents a 15,000 rise from its initial purchase in response to Amazon’s announced “Delivery Service Partner” program, for which the world’s largest online retailer says it has taken tens of thousands of applications.
Bluffton Town Council’s updated business license ordinance offers incentives to new and existing businesses – in a way that’s expected to bring a $200,000 drop in business-license revenue. Mayor Lisa Sulka told the Island Packet newspaper that while the aim is to simplify the application process and align it with other municipalities so in-town businesses can see more opportunities for development and expansion, “Out-of-town businesses doing business here, but based in other places, will see their fees increase.”
As many as 6,600 former workers of Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. will share around $8.7 million after a federal judge ruled in favor of the settlement. Once one-third of the award pays for the workers’ attorney fees, the average payout per employee will be less than $1,000. The two-year legal battle claimed that company executives of the failed supermarket giant siphoned their promised retirement benefits account of millions of dollars. CEO David Schools and two senior executives must contribute $3.45 million but with no admission of wrongdoing.