Six sleek Volvo S60 sedans cruised Thursday along a new, vital stretch of highway delivering their passengers — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, along with state commerce and transportation officials — to a ceremonial ribbon-cutting ceremony for the completed Volvo Interchange on Interstate 26.
“It’s this kind of development, this kind of business, this kind of prosperity that’s going to allow us to have all we need to spread education (and) strong families all across our state,” McMaster said.
Designed to provide direct access from I-26 to the Volvo Cars facility at Ridgeville’s Camp Hall Commerce Park, the new interchange is located at mile marker 189, between the SC 27/Ridgeville Road Exit 187 and the Jedburg Road Exit 194. South Carolina Department of Transportation will officially open the interchange to traffic on Friday morning.
The automotive plant is the first business to operate at the commerce park and recently marked its first year of being in full production. Volvo is anticipating to add 4,000 positions to its workforce, annually generating $5 billion in economic impact.
Even more growth is expected for the tract of land; Camp Hall Commerce Park, owned by Santee Cooper, is expected to generate 10,000 high quality jobs. The new interchange provides direct access to the Volvo facility and Camp Hall.
Mark Bonsall, Santee Cooper President and CEO, said the interchange project is a great example of teamwork between state and local organizations and the state’s power teams: Berkeley Electric Cooperative, Edisto Electric Cooperative and Santee Cooper.
“This interchange is a critical asset not only to Volvo, who is our anchor tenant, but to all of Camp Hall Commerce Park,” Bonsall said. “The new interchange can and will bring growth and in addition to the land that Volvo has here, there are some 1,300 acres of develop-able land right next to this interchange. Expanding economic development for the state is part of Santee Coopers’ mission, and we take that job very, very seriously.”
Santee Cooper is also working with environmental partners to permanently protect nearly 2,000 acres of land including more than 1,200 acres of freshwater wetlands, to create a unique space for commerce, convenience, and community at Camp Hall, Bonsall said.
Helena Bergstrom-Pilo, vice president of purchasing and research and development for Volvo Cars USA, called the new interchange a “win-win for everybody involved.”
Not only does the new interchange cut down on heavy traffic flowing through neighboring Pringletown and Lebanon, it also shortens commute time to the Volvo facility by about 15 minutes.
Robby Robbins, Chairman of the South Carolina Department of Transportation, said the interchange will indeed be a major help to the residents in Berkeley County’s nearby small town Pringletown, but also serve as a part of a larger strategy to create a new business area.
“We want to create jobs in western Berkeley County and this concept is years in the making,” Robbins said, “but we hope to change some traffic patterns and have people coming out here to work instead of everybody getting on I-26 and going the other direction.
Berkeley County Supervisor Johnny Cribb thanked leaders from Santee Cooper for their vision and effort in creating the Camp Hall site and the interchange.
“This (interchange) is going to provide multiple ways in and out of here which ends up speaking to individuals’ quality of life; how quickly can I get to work, how quickly can I get home to my family and how safely can I do that,” Cribb said.
McMaster also praised the interchange as an example of people keeping their word and doing what they said they would do. He said executives from all over the world have said the main reason the Palmetto State stands out is because of its people.
To sum up his feeling on the county’s growing industrial assets, McMaster quoted American country music singer Tim McGraw’s song: “We like it, we love it, we want some more of it.”