Is Blythewood’s $2 billion plant Fairfield’s second chance?

A conceptual master plan of the megasite | Contributed

FAIRFIELD – A $2 billion electric vehicle plant that’s coming to Blythewood’s industrial park has been hailed as a ’once-in-a-lifetime’ economic development coup for Richland County. The plant is expected to bring in 4,000 high paying jobs and eventually turn out as many as 200,000 electric vehicles a year.

By not having a wastewater treatment plant, Fairfield may have missed out on that ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ coup.  Fairfield officials say they hope to have a second chance at snagging the brass ring when suppliers for the plant start looking for sites near the mother plant in Blythewood.

“Suppliers for the Blythewood plant could bring tremendous investment to Fairfield,” County Council Vice Chair Clarence Gilbert said. “And, this time, we need to be ready for it. Being ready means having our wastewater treatment plant up and running in close to two years. Much later than that and Fairfield could miss out on its own chance of a lifetime. We need all hands on deck to secure that and other investment for our county,” he said.

During a recent meeting of the Fairfield Joint Water and Sewer Authority, Chairman John McMeekin, mayor of Winnsboro, agreed.

“Without the wastewater sewer plant, Fairfield County will die,” McMeekin said.  “We will be left behind surrounding counties. We’ve got to be very serious about this project. More businesses will bring jobs and tax dollars from both workers and the business themselves,” he said.

To the county’s advantage, a little over two years ago, much of the preliminary work had been completed for a wastewater treatment plant to be built on county land near the intersection of Peach and Cook Roads and for the effluent to discharge into nearby Cedar Creek.

Gilbert said the county would have used the state-of-the-art MBR (membrane reactor) wastewater treatment system to produce near potable effluent.

By October, 2020, former County Administrator Jason Taylor and the council at that time had hired Thomas and Hutton engineering firm to complete a PER (preliminary engineering report) for the plant. Environmental studies had been completed and rights of way secured. 

The estimated completion date for the plant was as early as the spring of this year.

“Basically,” said one former county official, “all we had to do was build the plant and extend a sewer line to the site, a two-year project.”

More than 30 of the 1,500 acre megasite have been graded.

Financing the Project

The county needed $40 million dollars to make the plant happen. According to Taylor at the time, the SC Department of Commerce had committed substantial financial backing for the plant, and county leaders hoped to bring in $10 million with a penny sales tax and another $10 million from other sources.

The November, 2020 election ushered in a new majority of council members who had campaigned against the penny tax. Newly elected Fairfield County Councilwoman Shirley Greene said in an interview with The Voice shortly before the election that while she supported building a wastewater treatment plant for Fairfield County, she didn’t feel the time was right.

In addition to turnovers on council, the penny tax referendum failed, and the new council majority was focused more on other projects rather than on the urgency of completing the wastewater treatment plant.

New County Council Chairman Moses Bell saw the Broad River as the more viable site for the plant to discharge its effluent. While he was correct that the Broad would provide more capacity than Cedar Creek, unofficial estimates for going to the Broad included cost estimates upwards of $70 million and a completion schedule of five to six years.

A Second Chance

Almost two years ago, the county received $99 million from the Dominion Energy settlement, $45 million of which was earmarked for the wastewater treatment plant, enough to pay for the Cedar Creek plan.

Then, last November, the council majority turned over again. The new majority has refocused on the urgency to complete the wastewater treatment plant.

There is also urgency for the megasite to be ready to accommodate the new industry the proposed wastewater treatment plant could bring.

Zachariah Willoughby, project manager for the Fairfield County Department of Economic Development, says the 1,500-acre megasite that sits on I-77 at the intersection of Highway 32, is well on the way to being ready.

“With $6,475,000 from the Dominion settlement for grading the megasite, we’ve graded between 30 and 40 acres so far. We’re currently working through the utility extensions that are under design with our engineering firm, and we’re in the process of upgrading some of the roadways,” Willoughby said.  “We have a grant for completing work on the IJR (Interstate Justification Report) so that we will have much of our work completed with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Transportation when the new interchange for the megasite is built. And we’ve completed the preliminary environmental studies. I think we’ll be ready,” he said.

Still, the question haunts, ‘Could the $2 billon Scout plant have come to Fairfield instead of Blythewood?’

“At this point, the question is moot,” County Councilman Dan Ruff said. “No one will ever know.”

But Ruff agreed that the Blythewood plant’s suppliers could be Fairfield’s second chance.

“This time, we want to be ready.”

The state and county incentives to bring Scout Motors to the Blythewood industrial park include a new I-77 interchange, traffic circles, road widenings, and other road improvements in and around the town. | Graphic: Ashley Ghere


  1. Lori A Kurtz says

    What did the county do with that $99 million. I see it is still business as usual with this county. not much of a change since we left in 2013.

  2. Barbara Ball says

    Below is a breakdown of the settlement in projects and cash:
    Wastewater treatment plan $45,690,118
    Grading of the megasite $6,475,000
    Grading of the Commerce Center $3,196,000
    Escrow for rate relief (economic development) $1,750,000
    Spec Bldg. – Parcel 9 at Commerce Center $2,000,000
    Teachers’ Village $2,200,000
    Bond payments (5 payments for 2013 $24M bond) $7,550,920
    Ridgeway Park and Rec Center $2,500,000
    Martin Luther King Monument $1,000,000
    Cash (payments to attorneys) $27.000,000
    TOTAL $99,474,538

  3. Mike Bell says

    This Plant should have been in Fairfield. Bobby Hitt, former secretary of commerce planned for this with the Mega site, but we needed wastewater and still need a wastewater treatment plant. Fairfield is the biggest loser.

    The only thing about this plant is that it’s 20 minutes down the road in RICH-land County.

    Mike Bell

  4. Brian says

    As long as the industry investors aren’t interested in having emergency medical service coverage for their employees and business. As Fairfield has shown extensively over the last 2 years they can not adequately staff their service due to poor management and ultimately low morale. The Mitford EMS station has been shut down for months on end and FEMS has no plan to turn this train wreck around. Investors should look North, like Chester county.

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