When Chinese tire company Wanli announced in 2017 that it had selected Orangeburg county South Carolina for a massive investment, local news source The Times & Democrat called it “a game changer.”
Wanli said it would spend about a billion dollars over an 8-year period, creating 1,200 jobs. The manufacturer’s first phase would provide for the capacity to produce six million vehicle tires per year.
Confidentiality agreements prevented local officials from sharing too many details with the public, but they apparently knew enough about the project to approve over $40 million in bonds to aid the site’s development, including roadways and rail.
Well, the latest update on the project is vague – but, unfortunately for the region, it doesn’t sound promising. The Times & Democrat reported this week that the tire maker is putting everything on hold.
Orangeburg County Development Commission Chairman Ken Middleton insists that the project is not officially dead, but it appears the county is now showing the proposed site to other possible tenants. He said that, although they can’t speak for Wanli, it’s likely the pause button was pushed due to escalating tensions with China over trade and tariffs.
In a lemons-to-lemonade move, the county is calling this, perhaps, a blessing in disguise – the companies looking at the site are smaller than Wanli, so splitting it up into, say, three segments would mean less risk.
But Orangeburg County Development Commission Executive Director Gregg Robinson said they’re still optimistic that they can make it work with Wanli and that it’s “not uncommon” for Chinese projects to take a long time to come to fruition.
Let me give it to you straight, Gregg. Once you’re on a break, you don’t get back together.