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Columbia Business Monthly

The Business Narrative: Driving for South Carolina

Jun 26, 2024 11:36AM ● By Donna Walker

BMW Manufacturing Opens First Press Shop in North America

Celebrating its 30th anniversary of assembling BMWs for the world, BMW Manufacturing on June 21, 2024, opened its state-of-the-art press shop as it prepares to assemble the new BMW X3 Sports Activity Vehicle at the Spartanburg, South Carolina, plant.


The press shop will stamp sheet metal parts for the new BMW X3, which made its North American debut during the ceremony. The components include hang-on parts such as the vehicle’s four doors, fenders, lift gate, and exterior body sides.


Milan Nedeljković, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Production, emphasized the BMW Group's commitment in the United States: “After 30 years of successful operations, we are further expanding our commitment. At the end of 2026, assembly of all-electric Sports Activity Vehicles will start here in Spartanburg. This is a further step towards strengthening our global resilience.”


By 2030, the BMW Group will assemble at least six fully electric models in the U.S. The high-voltage batteries for the future BEVs from Spartanburg will come from nearby Woodruff, where the BMW Group is currently building an assembly plant for sixth-generation batteries.


The opening of the press shop also contributes to strengthening the U.S. footprint.


“The advanced stamping processes on our new press line will ensure the highest quality, efficiency, and consistency in body shop parts for our customers,” said Robert Engelhorn, president and CEO of BMW Manufacturing. “Having this press shop onsite fits the BMW Group’s local-for-local strategy where we produce major parts at the location where we need them.”


The BMW Group invested more than $200 million to construct the 219,000-square-foot press shop. It took 24 months from site work preparation to stamping the first part on the press line.


The investment also included more than 200 new jobs in careers such as tool and die technicians as well as electrical and mechanical maintenance for automated machinery.


Dozens of Plant Spartanburg associates trained at BMW Group press shops in Swindon in the UK and Leipzig in Germany.


“Since establishing roots in South Carolina 30 years ago, BMW has transformed our state into an automotive powerhouse,” said South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster. “Today, we proudly celebrate yet another milestone with the opening of BMW's first North American press shop, and we look forward to their continued success in the years to come.”


During the ceremony, Engelhorn and Randy Watson, regional vice president of the Southern Region for BMW of North America, introduced the fourth-generation BMW X3 to the audience.


The BMW X3 is one of the company’s best-selling vehicles in the United States and worldwide. Plant Spartanburg associates have assembled more than 1.7 million BMW X3s since the model joined the plant’s lineup in 2010. The new BMW X3 will go on sale in the fall of 2024.


Also making its debut was the Silver Anniversary Edition of the BMW X5. This special adventure-themed Sports Activity Vehicle will be assembled in limited quantities for the U.S market exclusively with sales beginning this fall.


This edition celebrates 25 years since the very first BMW X5 was assembled at Plant Spartanburg in 1999. This model created the segment of Sports Activity Vehicles and laid the foundation for a tremendous global success with nearly three million BMW X5 vehicles assembled since then.


The press shop marks the beginning of the automotive production process. Large steel coils are unloaded from trucks using a large overhead crane inside the shop. The steel coils are then fed into the Coil Line, where the steel is cut into individual “blanks” (rectangular cutoffs or special shapes) at up to 70 strokes per minute. These blanks are then ready to be fed into the Press Line.


The Press Line consists of five press (stamping) stations. The line is equipped with servo technology, which enables BMW to significantly increase the output performance of the presses. 


An overhead crane moves the correct press tool (die) into each station. The blank is fed into the first press station and transferred from one station to the next by a robot-like automation technology, referred to as the “crossbar feeder,” for additional forming and trimming operations.


The line can run up to 18 strokes per minute, which means up to 10,000 parts can be stamped each day, depending on the size of each part.


After the parts are stamped, they go to quality control for inspection; quality inspectors use special lighting that mimics natural daylight. Parts are then stacked into racks ready for delivery to the body shop production line.


Underneath both the press and coil lines are areas that collect the scrap metal gathered after the parts are stamped. As much as 50 tons of scrap are accumulated each day at full volume; a long conveyor moves the scrap, and it is loaded onto 53-foot trailers.


All this material is taken off-site to be recycled.


This year, BMW Manufacturing celebrates 30 years of assembling BMWs in South Carolina, with more than 6.7 million BMWs assembled during the three decades.


The Spartanburg factory employs more than 11,000 people to assemble the X3, X5, X7 and XM Sports Activity Vehicles and the X4 and X6 Sports Activity Coupes.


The 1,150-acre, 8-million-square-foot campus includes three body shops with more than 2,600 robots, two paint shops, and two assembly halls.


The plant generates about 20 percent of its own power from methane gas and uses hydrogen fuel cell technology to power about 800 pieces of material handling equipment.


The BMW Group announced in 2022 that it would invest $1.7 billion in its U.S. operations, including $1 billion to prepare the Spartanburg plant to assemble fully electric vehicles and $700 million to build a new high-voltage battery assembly plant in Woodruff.


When completed in 2026, Plant Woodruff will assemble the sixth-generation batteries to supply fully electric vehicles at BMW Manufacturing. By 2030, the BMW Group will assemble at least six fully electric models in the U.S.

SC Chamber of Commerce President, CEO Bob Morgan Announces Resignation

South Carolina Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Morgan on June 24, 2024, announced his resignation after serving in the role for over three years.


Mike Brenan, a former chairman of the Chamber’s board of directors, will serve as interim president and CEO while the board conducts a comprehensive search for Morgan’s permanent successor.


No specific reason for the resignation was given.


“Since moving to South Carolina, Meg and I have become passionate about the Palmetto State and I look forward to helping the state continue to grow and prosper,” Morgan said. “I look forward to building on this experience as I pursue the next chapter in my career.”


“South Carolina’s business community is stronger and better represented than it was when Bob joined us, and we’re grateful for his time here,” said Will Whitley of Michelin North America and S.C. Chamber board chair. “The Chamber is on an exciting trajectory, having accomplished great things during the most recent two-year legislative session and bolstering our reputation as the voice of South Carolina’s thriving business community as a result.


Whitley added, “We’re fortunate to have an accomplished and respected leader like Mike Brenan offer his experience and guidance as we build on this momentum and search far and wide for the next president and CEO.”


A stalwart of South Carolina’s business community for decades, including his time on the Chamber’s board of directors, Brenan brings a unique perspective to the position.


Brenan spent decades in South Carolina’s banking industry before retiring in 2023 as the regional president for the South Carolina Region of Truist Bank.


Prior to that, Brenan was regional president in South Carolina for the BB&T Corporation before its merger with SunTrust, which created Truist Bank.


Having a passion for building strong communities and families, Brenan has also served the state through numerous civic and philanthropic groups.


He received the Humanitarian of the Year Award by the United Way of the Midlands in 2012 and has served on boards of the South Carolina Philharmonic, the United Way Association of South Carolina, the Governor’s School for Science & Mathematics Foundation, the Moore School Business Partnership Foundation, the South Carolina Independent Colleges & Universities Foundation, and the South Carolina State Board of Education.


Members of the search committee tasked with identifying the next permanent president and CEO include: Chairman of the Board Will Whitley of Michelin North America, Chairperson-elect Thomas Rhodes of Rhodes Companies, former Chair of the Board Kim Wilkerson, former Chairman of the Board David Lominack of TD Bank, Second Vice Chairperson Howard Coker of Sonoco, and James D’Alessio of BlueCross BlueShield SC.

Schneider Electric Expanding Manufacturing Employee Base in Oconee, Richland Counties

Schneider Electric, a leader in energy management and automation, said it is expanding operations in Oconee and Richland counties.


The company’s combined investment of $23.8 million will create 280 jobs throughout 2024, according to Gov. Henry McMaster’s office.


Schneider Electric is a global industrial technology leader, producing energy efficient and sustainability solutions for customers in 150 countries.


A consortium member of The South Carolina Nexus for Advanced Resilient Energy (SC NEXUS), Schneider Electric is committed to supporting advanced energy generation, transmission, distribution and storage in South Carolina and advancing the clean energy transition nationwide.

The company’s Oconee County engineer-to-order facility, at 1990 Sandifer Blvd. in Seneca, manufactures low-voltage motor control centers, panelboard box and trim, and lighting and PowerLink panelboards. The investment will include HVAC electrification and create 130 jobs.

In Richland County, Schneider Electric will invest in its engineer-to-order facility, at 8821 Garners Ferry Road in Hopkins, and add 150 new jobs. This operation manufactures NW breakers, low-voltage switchgear and switchboards.

Hiring for both facilities will take place throughout 2024. 

The state’s Coordinating Council for Economic Development approved job development credits related to both projects.

HNTB Expands in Carolinas with New Charleston Region Office

HNTB, a leading infrastructure solutions firm, has opened a new office at 4922 O’Hear Avenue, Suite 203, in the Garco Park development near Park Circle in North Charleston, bringing together professionals from planning, architecture and engineering.


To celebrate its new Charleston-area office, HNTB hosted an open house attended by employees, clients, partners, local small businesses — including partner Minority/Women Business Enterprises and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises—and local officials.


Notable attendees included North Charleston Mayor Reggie Burgess, Hanahan Mayor Christy Rainwater, and Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments Executive Director Ron Mitchum, along with members of local councils. 


Mayor Burgess commended HNTB on its dedication to the local community and expressed his excitement for future transportation improvements.


“HNTB is committed to being a vital contributor to the region’s growth and prosperity, while igniting discussions on how we can further enhance our community through meaningful projects and collaborations,” said Spencer Franklin, HNTB’s Carolina’s office leader and senior vice president.


Franklin added, “We look forward to working with our partners to shape the future of the local transportation landscape, while fostering stronger connections within the community.”


South Carolina is experiencing a significant period of growth and transformation, with increasing demands for modernized transportation networks and improved infrastructure systems.


With the new office, HNTB will continue to collaborate with local stakeholders, government agencies and community leaders to address the unique infrastructure challenges and opportunities in the area and across South Carolina.


HNTB is, or has been, involved with numerous high-profile projects in the region and state, including bridge inspections for South Carolina Department of Transportation District 6, planning and design for SCDOT Closed and Load Restricted Bridges Program, US 17A Improvements, the US 52 Bus Rapid Transit Feasibility Study, Highway 176 Improvements, US 52 Intersection Improvements, Clemson University’s Women’s Sports ExpansionUniversity of South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium Renovation and Coastal Carolina University’s Indoor Practice Facility.


HNTB Corporation is an employee-owned infrastructure firm serving public and private owners and contractors.


With 110 years of service, it has more than 7,300 professionals delivering a full range of infrastructure-related services, including award-winning planning, design, and program and construction management. 

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