The Rise of U.S. Manufacturing in South Carolina

With the price of foreign manufacturing rising and US energy costs staying low, there’s no better time for manufacturing to return to the United States. At least, that’s what Walmart thinks.

Kent InternationalTo help bring manufacturing back home, the retailer is intentionally increasing the amount of US-made products it sells. So far, Walmart’s efforts appear to be working. One of the biggest success stories is taking place right here in South Carolina.

It all started in March 2013, when Arnold Kamler, CEO of bicycle manufacturer Kent International Inc., met Gov. Nikki Haley at the Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Summit. He’d been thinking about bringing production back to the US, as manufacturing costs in China and Taiwan continued to rise.

Gov. Haley had a suggestion: why not build a facility in South Carolina? It sounded good to Kamler. So in 2014, Kent International opened a $4.3 million facility in Manning, S.C.

So far, the plant is thriving. Kent will produce 500,000 bicycles by the end of 2016 and plans to bring around 175 jobs to South Carolina. Kent is the first US-made bikes carried by Walmart in more than 15 years.

Just last month, Kent was named Walmart’s Manufacturer of the Year. It’s the second straight year the bike maker has earned this achievement.

This story highlights the effect a supportive business environment can have in bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States.

According to Kamler, it was Gov. Haley’s enthusiastic support that convinced him to build Kent’s facility in South Carolina. And it was her ongoing help – running a natural gas pipeline to support the factory and heading up employee training at community colleges, among others – that allowed Kent to succeed in their new location.

Luckily, this story doesn’t end here. As South Carolina continues to support new enterprises and provide the support necessary for these businesses to thrive, we can expect more exciting developments in the years ahead.