Volvo's Good Neighbor Collaborative is a way for the company to listen to community members in Berkeley County. File photo
Volvo Cars is in the process of opening a new factory in Berkeley County, SC — its first in the U.S. — that will produce an estimated 100,000 cars annually.
"We’re in the construction phase of the new plant, so we will be fully operational by the end of 2018,” Stephanie Mangini, corporate communications manager for Volvo, told Palmetto Business Daily.
The new factory will be the site where the new S60 Sedan will be made. The model is currently being developed at Volvo Car Group headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden. Once in production, the American-made Volvos will be exported around the world through the Port of Charleston.
Over the next 10 years, Volvo plans to hire up to 2,000 people. However, an economist expects an even greater impact over time. According to Volvo, Dr. Frank Hefner, professor of economics at the College of Charleston, compiled an economic impact analysis of the plant and said more than 8,000 jobs would be created as a result of the initial 2,000 direct jobs.
“The annual economic output is estimated at $4.8 billion,” Mangini said.
Not only does the manufacturer want to be profitable, it wants to ensure the community feels good about its presence.
“The Good Neighbor Collaborative is really our way to listen to our community,” Mangini said. “Because this is Volvo Cars’ first U.S. manufacturing plant, we wanted to make sure that when we come into the community we’re listening and we’re partnering with our community.”
Volvo partnered up with several residential leaders to counsel Volvo on the feedback they are getting from the community. To ensure this effort was effective, the manufacturer partnered with The McNair Group, an outside consulting agency, to hold sessions throughout the Tri-County Area and assess whether Volvo would fit the mold of a good neighbor.
“We wanted to make sure that our neighbors understood that we do want their honesty,” Mangini said.
The leaders in the advisory group represent the environment, education, residents and small businesses. The initiative also seeks to find out where people in the community want Volvo to invest its community dollars and what concerns they may have.
Many of the sessions have been scheduled through Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce meetings, Mangini said. The advisory board also reaches out to the media when local events are scheduled to spread the word.
“So far, we’ve probably spoken or reached out to over 1,000 community members and we’ve done over a dozen of these sessions,” she said.
Bryan Derreberry, president and CEO of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, praised Volvo's outreach and partnership with organizations such as his.
“Volvo’s immediate and continuous positive impact on metro Charleston is evident in their integration into multiple local communities," Derreberry said. "They are a valued member of the Charleston Metro Chamber and their momentous impact on our talent pipeline will create generational success for families throughout the region.”
Mangini encourages people who are interested in participating to continue to look for information on sessions in their local newspapers.
“We want to be good neighbors. We’re going to be here for the long term and we want to work with our community,” she said.
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