Lockhart Power donates $100,000 for Gonvauto development project

On the day it celebrated its 100th anniversary by planting 100 trees in four local communities, Lockhart Power also made a $100,000 contribution in support of the future economic development of Union County.

Representatives of Lockhart Power and its parent company, Pacolet Milliken Enterprises, gathered Thursday with county, municipal, economic development and school officials for ceremonies dedicating trees planted in Union, Jonesville, Lockhart and Pacolet honor of Lockart Power’s centennial anniversary.

After the dedication ceremony in Union, Bryan Stone, Lockhart Power COO, presented Tommy Sinclair, Union County supervisor, Joe Nichols, City of Union utility director and Union County Development Board chairman, and Andrena Powell-Baker, Union County Development Board executive director, with a check for $100,000. The funds will be used to support infrastructure improvements for the Gonvauto South Carolina steel service center currently under construction.

In a statement released Monday formally announcing the donation, Stone expressed the confidence about Gonvauto’s impact on the local economy and future development.

“We are thrilled to support the arrival of a company whose facility will have a ripple effect within our community,” Stone said. “Not only will Gonvauto bring jobs and tax revenue to Union County, but it will show others who are interested in locating facilities here that we will do everything within our power to support their arrival.”

Richard Webel, Pacolet Milliken Enterprises president, said that “Lockhart Power is proud to have a long history of supporting Union County through economic development donations.”

Webel also spoke of the history of Lockhart Power’s support for economic development in Union County, pointing out that, in 2012, the company donated $100,000 to make infrastructure improvements to the Midway Green Industrial Park, and previously provided support for the Trakas industrial site.

Stone said that the funds will be used to support infrastructure improvements for the Gonvauto facility which is under construction in the Bonham community. He said the funds are utility tax credits that companies like Lockhart Power are permitted to allocate to local governments in support of local economic development projects.

“South Carolina law allows utilities subject to a utility tax to direct a certain amount of those funds to local economic development projects for improvements to infrastructure,” Stone said. “This year, virtually all our utility tax will be directed to general improvements to the infrastructure for the Gonvauto project.”

Gonvauto is being built by Gonvarri Steel Services on a 24-acre site next to S.C. 18. Gonvarri, which is based in Spain, is a provider of steel processing to manufacturers and Gonvauto will be its first steel service center in America. The new facility will supply the nearby Gestamp LLC automotive parts manufacturing facility. Gestamp, which is also based in Spain, is the parent company of Gonvarri.

Gonvarri is making an initial investment of $35 million in Gonvauto, which will employ a workforce of 40 and have a flat steel processing capacity of 100,000 tons. Beyond its initial investment, Gonvarri plans to invest another $15 million in Gonvauto and create an additional 25 jobs.

Construction has already begun on the site of the Gonvauto facility which is projected to be completed and in operation by July 2013.

Powell-Baker said Monday that the utility tax credits donated by Lockhart Power is part of the incentive package which enabled the county to recruit Gonvauto. She said its relationship with Lockart Power and other companies are a vital part of the county’s economic development efforts.

“The one hundred thousand dollars from Lockhart Power helped us bring Gonauto to Union County,” Powell-Baker said. “Relationships with companies like Lockhart Power help us to stay competitive and leverage resources that set us apart from the other that communities we compete with.”

Nichols said the tax credits donated by Lockhart Power will go to the county specifically for reimbursement of infrastructure improvements to the Gonvauto facility. He thanked Lockhart Power for its donation which he said will help facilitate the construction of the Gonvauto’s supporting infrastructure and through it the construction of Gonvauto itself.

Sinclair also welcomed the donation and said he felt it the project would lead to even more economic development in the future.

“First of all we appreciate the utility company using their tax credits to help us with the infrastructure improvements, specifically this one was from Lockhart Power. It will be used to assist the Gonvauto effort as it ties to Gestamp so that ultimately you can see a transportation connectivity through Gonauto through Gestamp to the four-lane. We look forward to continued growth in the area.”

By Charles Warner, Staff Reporter with The Union Daily Times