DUNCAN — Industrial development is occurring in many places across the Upstate but nowhere more intensely than along the State 290 corridor in western Spartanburg County.

The longtime cluster of factories near the intersection with Interstate 85 continues to grow, with the latest addition a $35 million, 94-job expansion at BMW supplier Draxlmaier.

But the largest growth spurt along State 290 at the moment is about 10 miles southeast, in the Moore area.

There, four companies have recently opened or are building factories near the intersection with Interstate 26, one of them a billion-dollar project.

Kobelco Construction Machinery, a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Kobe Steel, was the first to finish construction and commence production. It celebrates the grand opening of its excavator plant on June 2.

Still building factories are Sterling Contract Packaging of Spartanburg; Ritrama, an Italian company that makes self-adhesive materials; and Japan’s Toray Industries, which supplies carbon fiber to the Boeing aircraft factory in North Charleston.

Toray has said it will spend $1 billion on its plant and employ 500 workers.

With plenty of prime industrial property still available along State 290, the boom is expected to continue.

“That is the hot spot for the Upstate, and maybe for South Carolina,” said David Britt, point man for economic development on Spartanburg County Council.

Virtues of the corridor

Real estate developers, county jobs recruiters and company executives cite a number of benefits for manufacturers along the highway between Duncan and Moore:

*There’s five lanes for truckers to reach I-85 or I-26 within minutes.

*There’s sewer capacity and plenty of prime industrial property left.

*There’s temporary office and warehouse space for lease at Spartanburg Community College’s Tyger River Campus.

The temporary space “allows a company to be able to get boots on the ground in the early stages” of a development project, said Carter Smith, Spartanburg County’s economic development director. He said Toray and Kobelco both made use of the perk.

Like other locations in the Greer area, the State 290 corridor is about halfway between Greenville and Spartanburg. It’s also near BMW’s U.S. manufacturing plant, Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport and the South Carolina Inland Port.

Hiroshi “Rocky” Morita, a Kobelco vice president, said his company visited eight states before picking 77 acres along State 290 as the site for its $41 million plant.

Kobelco should employ 151 workers at the plant by 2019, said Ralph Wabnitz, general manager. He said production workers will be paid $16-$18 an hour and won’t have to work nights or weekends.

Former Spartanburg Mayor Bill Barnet, who located a factory along State 290 in the late 1990s when he was chief executive of William Barnet & Son, said the recent boom on the Moore side of the highway “bodes well for the tax base.”

“It bodes well for job creation and opportunity for higher-paying jobs,” Barnet said. “I think it’s great for the community and great for the Upstate.”

Milliken land

The development wave was made possible by Roger Milliken, the late chief executive of Milliken & Co., the Spartanburg-based manufacturer of textiles and advanced materials.

The textile magnate, who died in 2010, bought more than 2,000 acres along the highway in the Moore area in the 1970s and refused to sell it for many years, said John Montgomery, a Spartanburg developer who’s helping to market the property now.

The combination of timberland and farmland wasn’t put up for sale until about five years ago after the 2008 formation of Pacolet Milliken Enterprises to market Milliken & Co.’s real estate for development.

Toray was the first company to buy a piece of the State 290 acreage, about 400 acres, followed by Kobelco, Ritrama and Sterling Packaging.

Other companies, including BMW suppliers, are interested, according to Montgomery.

He said Pacolet Milliken has developed a master plan for the biggest remaining piece — a lush, 880-acre green on both sides of the highway — that calls for another 6.5 million square feet of industrial building space.

Montgomery said the 880 acres, which is being marketed as Tyger River Industrial Park North, can accommodate two 1.5 million-square-foot buildings side by side, an option he said is unique in the Upstate.

“We’re very bullish about the potential future growth out in that corridor,” Montgomery said.

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