FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — Ground was broken Wednesday morning in Florence County for a new, state-of-the-art electric vehicle battery factory that is expected to create nearly 1,200 jobs.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and other state and local leaders are attending the ceremony for the 1.5-million-square-foot plant, which is being built at the intersection of Estate Road and East Old Marion Highway across from Wilson High School.

“Our future, our success depends on three main pillars of our success,” McMaster said. “That’s an education strength, our economic strength and our environmental strength. And all three of those pillars are wrapped together like roots of a tree. If ones missing, the other two can’t hold it up.”

The plant, which is being built by AESC, a Japanese battery technology company, is expected to open in 2026 and created 1,170 jobs, officials said.

“Today, South Carolina is proud to celebrate AESC as the company embarks on a historic chapter in our state,” McMaster said. “Florence County has been ripe for an investment of this magnitude — one that will transform local communities and create generational wealth for South Carolinians. The groundbreaking for AESC’s battery cell gigafactory is a landmark moment in the evolution of South Carolina’s rapidly expanding electric vehicle industry.”

Jeff Deaton, AESC’s U.S. managing director, said the plant is another milestone for his company.

“AESC continues to be a global leader in developing next generation EV battery technology, and we’re proud to be further growing our capacity to build those products in U.S. facilities, accelerating the transition to clean energy transportation,” Deaton said.

Deaton also said the decision to invest in Florence County and in South Carolina was an easy one.

“SC is home to 500 automotive companies and is the number one exporter of passenger vehicles and also the number one producer of tires in the United States,” Deaton said. “So, our decision to invest in SC was an easy one.”

The plant will be a major boost for the region, Florence County Council Chairman Willard Dorriety said.

“AESC’s groundbreaking marks a historic day for Florence County and its residents, as it will bring an abundance of high paying jobs to our community,” he said. “We know AESC will be a vital and active partner in the County for decades to come.”

Florence Mayor Teresa Myers Ervin agreed.

“We are ecstatic about AESC’s decision to locate in Florence County and are honored to be celebrating this groundbreaking today alongside the community leaders whose collaboration made this project possible,” Myers Ervin said.

According to a news release, the 30 GWh battery plant builds on AESC’s existing battery manufacturing network that includes a plant in operation in Tennessee and another plant under construction in Kentucky.

“Collectively, AESC’s U.S. plants upon completion will provide up to 70 GWh capacity annually, powering the shift to electric vehicles with U.S.-made batteries and components,” the news release said.

The Florence location will support the company’s partnership with BMW Group, which was announced in October 2022. Under that agreement, AESC will provide battery cells for next- generation electric vehicles produced at BMW’s Spartanburg plant, the news release said.

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Aundrea Gibbons joined the News13 team in May 2023 after graduating from Clemson University with bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and communication. Aundrea is a Marion native and graduated as salutatorian in 2019. Follow Aundrea on Twitter and read more of her work here.

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Dennis Bright is a digital producer at News13. Dennis is a West Virginia native and graduate of Marshall University. He has won copyediting and journalism awards in West Virginia and Ohio. Follow Dennis on Twitter and read more of his work here.