FORT MILL, S.C.—Continental Tires the Americas L.L.C. is spending more than $20 million to expand its headquarters in South Carolina, allowing for a consolidation of current employees from multiple locations and providing room for future growth.
A new 88,000-sq.-ft. building near Fort Mill will provide space for up to 400 workers and be adjacent to the company's existing 91,000-sq.-ft. headquarters site, the company said.
"Lancaster County has been home to our tire operations for the Americas Region since 2009. We are excited to invest in our campus and bring our team together in a new, fresh space that includes modern features and design to support the future work environment," said Jochen Etzel, CEO of Continental Tire the Americas.
Continental oversees its tire business in both North America and South America from the location a few miles east of Fort Mill in an unincorporated area called Indian Land.
Continued growth previously led the company to build a 16,000-sq.-ft. addition that was finished in 2012.
"Since the addition, Continental has continued to expand its work force, which has been dispersed across multiple facilities in the area," the company said. "This newest addition, a more than $20 million investment, is expected to be completed mid-2022, and will enable Continental to consolidate its footprint, while at the same time provide the space needed to support the continuous growth of its operations."
Construction is slated to begin in 2021, the company said.
Talk of expansion dates to 2017, according to Jamie Gilbert, executive director of the Lancaster County Department of Economic Development. Now that the news is out, he was able to provide some context about how the project came together.
"For us, it was both an expansion and a retention project. Right now, they have over 600 employees in the county. At the time, they had over 500 (in 2017). Maintaining and keeping those jobs here and getting the expansion was critically important to us," he said.
The new three-floor building allows for employees at other sites in the area to move to the business park. Continental has employees at two other locations in the area, including one temporary site with about 100 workers. The other is a warranty center that temporarily provides space for about 50 workers, a spokeswoman said in an email exchange.
"Over the past several years, we have successfully grown our business across the Americas. With this growth, we have added jobs over the years—doubling since we located our headquarters in Lancaster County in 2009," the spokeswoman said.
"Our current HQ is not large enough to accommodate our employees in the area, and the team has been dispersed across multiple sites since 2015. It has been our goal to bring the team back together, and with this expansion, we are able to do so," she continued.
Lancaster County is in northern South Carolina and abuts Mecklenburg County, N.C., where Charlotte is located. A sliver of Lancaster County forms a panhandle to the north that's also next to York County, S.C., to the west, where Fort Mill is situated.
This means Continental had locations quite close to its existing headquarters both within its own state and in North Carolina to consider for the expansion project, Gilbert said.
It's a "great company and one that's been here for 13 years, and to see them grow and expand here and make that investment in our community, we're ecstatic," he said.
Economic development officials used a combination of state and local incentives, along with some funding from local utilities, to ultimately convince Continental to expand at its existing site in a business park. That includes money to install turn lanes entering and exiting MacMillan Industrial Park to accommodate the increased traffic the expansion will bring.
Continental purchased about 30 acres adjacent to its current headquarters to accommodate the new construction project, Gilbert said. "We worked with Continental on a number of fronts. One was helping them make a decision on where to locate within the county. I think ideally they wanted to expand at the property they ended up purchasing next to their existing location," Gilbert said.
The impact of COVID-19 pushed the project back several months this year, otherwise he said the construction probably would have been disclosed in early 2020.
County officials referred to the proposal as "Project Dumpling" as a way to keep Continental's name out of the spotlight as negotiations and discussions took place leading up to a public announcement. That was Gilbert's idea and simply inspired by his taste buds.
"My favorite German food is sour beef and dumplings," he explained.