Richland County/Scout Motors FAQs
Richland County and Blythewood have all the necessary ingredients for businesses and families to thrive. It is centrally located within South Carolina, near the capital city, and within a reasonable distance of several major automobile manufacturing facilities. Blythewood has the available prepared land with water and sewer connection, direct access to I-77, 7 miles from the Columbia airport, and only 120 miles to the Port of Charleston. Lastly, the available workforce in the surrounding area is highly qualified, so Scout will have a strong talent pool from which to recruit new employees.
All parties are committed to building a world-class manufacturing facility that will have a limited effect on the traffic and congestion within the town of Blythewood and surrounding areas. The state of South Carolina, Richland County, and the company are all committed to ensuring that the positive economic growth that emerges from this project is managed sustainably, including by constructing and improving the infrastructure needed to avoid traffic challenges. Richland County is already in the process of widening Blythewood Road as part of the Penny Program. As part of this new development, state incentives are being provided to construct a new interstate interchange, construct a new road, widen long stretches of roads and make significant improvements to several intersections.
This project will not arrive overnight. Construction will take time, production is not slated to begin until 2026, and operations will continue to be ramped up in the ensuing years. This timeline will give us an opportunity to manage the growth sustainably and ensure its benefits are spread equitably throughout the community.
The economic impact of a project this size is incredible. Scout is investing $2 billion and up to 4,000 jobs will be created to supply this state-of-the-art facility. That translates to good-paying jobs for generations of Richland County residents. We also know that when large projects like these invest in communities, there are often hundreds of other ancillary jobs and investments made that will have a positive impact on the community. With this project, a large new taxpayer would be present in the county and that could help alleviate the need to raise taxes in the future given the impact this new development would have on tax revenue to the county.
An economic analysis conducted by University of South Carolina economist Joey Von Nessen estimates that by 2029, Scout will have a $4.2 billion annual economic impact on the state. This factors in indirect economic activity, including that spurred by other suppliers, wages paid and consumer spending at area businesses, as well as direct investment by the company.
Richland County is a thriving and growing county, including the town of Blythewood. We believe that it is possible to responsibly control development within the town and the county while also planning for major economic development projects that will provide long-lasting benefits to the community. With economic growth comes a likely rise in property values around the area, benefiting existing residents. A new flagship business like this also means increased exposure, foot traffic and customers for existing local businesses that will continue to make up the backbone of our area’s economy.
Although the future is uncertain and individual situations may be distinct, historical data from similar projects in South Carolina indicate that a manufacturing investment of this size can have a positive impact on the surrounding area. In Greer, home values in the vicinity experienced a notable increase following the investment of BMW, and Ladson saw a similar impact following the arrival of Mercedes. Given that the facility will be creating 4,000 jobs, many new employees may be interested in living near it if they are not already, which will drive up housing demand. Additionally, the increased public revenue as a result of this economic development project will help fund improvements to the town’s infrastructure, schools, and other amenities, which can in turn make it a more desirable place for many potential homebuyers.
Scout Motors required rail. Any location that was being considered for the partnership had to have access to a functioning rail system in order to meet the logistical needs of the company. Without this key element, we would not have been able to successfully bring Scout to South Carolina. Rail is also the most efficient method of materials transportation to and from the site, both from a logistical and environmental standpoint, and it will significantly reduce the need for trucks that would risk increasing traffic on public roads near the site.
Engineers conducted a thorough evaluation of the site and determined that the current plan is the only feasible location for the rail. Any deviation from the current plan would require relocating the planned interchange, which would not be permissible under Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) guidelines, or it would not be possible due to the rail’s restricted amount of geometry based on gradient and curve.
The elevation of the plant is planned to be about 70 feet above the homes and there will be a berm along the top of that area as well. To further minimize potential noise impacts from the railway system, the rail design has been planned with the speed of operations at around 10 mph, and the curves of the design have been kept very minor to limit the amount of steel wheel to steel rail squeal during operation. Based on the current design, no at-grade crossings will exist in the plant, so there will be no need to operate the locomotive horn unless an emergency requires it.
Significant buffers will be established along the property lines. The facility and the rail will be situated at a distance of at least 600 feet from the property lines. There is also a 300-foot buffer planned along Blythewood Road.
We commissioned Terracon consultants to conduct a sound study for the Scout Motors site and the study is now complete. The report can be viewed here: Project Connect Rail Spur: Noise Analysis Report
The study utilized sound modeling to evaluate the operational noise for comparison with the measured ambient site conditions. The results showed that the project activities contributed sound levels ranging from 37 to 47 dBA, which were generally equal to or lower than the ambient conditions for the majority of the receptor locations. The results of the modeling indicate the rail operational sound emitted on the site diminishes with distance, topography and ground cover. Therefore, minimal offsite noise is expected to impact sensitive receptor locations, and the project is not anticipated to significantly affect community sound levels based on the impact thresholds defined by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) methodology.
The environmental impacts of rail transportation can vary depending on various factors such as the type of locomotives used, the frequency of trains, and the speed of trains. Rail transportation is widely considered to be a relatively environmentally friendly mode of transportation, especially when compared to other forms of transportation, such as road or air transportation.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), freight rail transportation is up to four times more fuel-efficient than truck transportation and reduces Greenhouse Gases by an estimated 75% (AAR). Rail moves 40% of freight in the U.S. but only accounts for 0.6% of greenhouse gas emissions and 8% of all freight emissions (EPA, 2018).
Richland County conducted an endangered species study as part of our due diligence in purchasing the property. No endangered species were identified.
As is customary with most commercial industrial developments, some stormwater runoff is expected. To mitigate potential adverse impacts on downstream properties, roads, or residents, Scout plans to construct detention ponds that will adhere to all state and county regulations, designed to meet or exceed the required standards. The stormwater analysis will be carried out and permitted through the state to ensure that the design meets all necessary requirements.
Scout has committed to being an environmentally responsible neighbor, and the company is required to abide by all local, state and federal requirements for any stormwater runoff. All process wastewater will be treated and ultimately go the City of Columbia's system, so there is no potential for contamination.
Lithium batteries are safe and reliable when used and handled properly, and incidents involving them are rare and often due to misuse. Ongoing efforts to improve the safety of lithium batteries, such as thorough research on materials and manufacturing, battery management systems, and regulations and standards, are helping to mitigate risks.
While we do not expect fires on site, we are still taking precautions to ensure they remain contained in the unlikely event of an incident. Scout’s facilities will have a fire station on site, and Richland County will also be making upgrades to the Blythewood fire station as part of our incentives package. Scout and Richland County are both fully committed to ensuring this project is managed with consistently high safety standards.
A recent study from AutoInsuranceEZ found that electric vehicles are less likely to cause a fire than either gas-powered or hybrid-powered vehicles. Hybrid-powered cars are involved in about 3,475 fires per every 100,000 sold. Gasoline-powered cars, about 1,530. Electric vehicles (EVs) saw just 25 fires per 100,000 sold.
The State of South Carolina and Richland County are following all required procedures for addressing wetlands impact on this site by submitting required permit applications through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). The USACE and DHEC have posted a public notice, allowing interested parties to submit comments on the proposed work through a 30-day period.
The South Carolina Department of Commerce and Richland County, co-applicants for the permit, look forward to continuing their engagement with the Army Corps of Engineers, SCDHEC, resource agencies, and the public regarding the proposed project.
Comprehensive due diligence and planning on the site by the project partners has been completed and is ongoing. The applicants are particularly excited about the mitigation package that they have put together through consultation with their partners in the conservation and mitigation community, resource agencies, interested parties, and the environmental community.
While impacts on the site are unavoidable, the proposed mitigation package is expected to substantially exceed the regulatory requirements for the impacts to both wetlands and streams within the same watershed and service territories of the impacts, preserve and restore over 5,000 acres in the Midlands, and has the potential to offer substantial new public access to critical natural resources.
This project is a win for South Carolina, generating billions of dollars of long-term and sustainable investment and advanced manufacturing job creation for the Midlands. This investment continues South Carolina’s push to be on the forefront of the burgeoning electric vehicle production market, as the United States trends away from gas-powered, combustion engines, putting South Carolina one step closer to becoming the electric vehicle capital of the country.
In the interest of saving taxpayer money and limiting truck traffic in and out of the site, the State and County opted to use the more efficient controlled burning method to clear the site for construction.
However, after receiving feedback from concerned neighbors, all parties involved in the project sought to pursue any feasible steps to reduce disturbance to residential areas. As a result of those discussions, we have now ceased burning on the southern portion of the property nearest the residential subdivisions. The shift to chipping in that portion of the site will still have an impact, as those piles will need to be hauled off, which could increase traffic, and this shift will not be inexpensive. But we wanted to be as responsive to local concerns as possible and are hopeful this change will reduce the impact of burning on nearby residents.
In the northern portion of the site, the contractors are continuing to follow all required safety regulations for open burning, as has been confirmed by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control after officials visited the site. These regulations include locating the burning more than 1,000 feet away from public roadways and residential, commercial, and industrial sites. While some impacts of this land clearing method may still be unavoidable, the State and County are continuing to work diligently to minimize the disturbance to nearby residents and complete this process expeditiously.
Some trees needed to be temporarily removed in order to put in better stormwater controls through grading, but those trees will be replanted in accordance with a full updated tree mitigation plan that will be resubmitted to the Town of Blythewood. We recognize the importance of maintaining a tree buffer between the site and surrounding roads, and that buffer will be installed by the time the project is complete.
Bottom line: Given its role on the frontlines of the transition to clean energy, Scout Motors is a very environmentally-conscious company. They plan to build a world-class, industry-leading facility that residents of Blythewood can be proud of, and they will work to minimize any impact on the environment surrounding the facility. They are committed to being a respectful neighbor and a collaborative partner in the local community.