June 20, 2024

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How Biden’s landmark climate law is transforming a small South Carolina town

2 min read

When Justin Singletary heard Volkswagen was building its first US electric vehicle factory in his town, he began to expand his real estate business to capitalise on the economic boom he expected would follow.  

Several months later the 33-year old realtor has already built and sold a home to a Volkswagen executive. He is in talks to develop four housing lots in anticipation of an influx of hundreds of workers to Blythewood, a small town of about 5,000 people near Columbia in South Carolina.    

Ground clearing has begun on the 1,600-acre EV site, which will not start production until 2026. The factory, worth $2bn, is one of many projects being built across the US on the back of lucrative federal tax credits and state subsidies, with South Carolina doling out a record $1.3bn in taxpayer funds to lure Volkswagen, which is launching production under its US brand Scout Motors.

“It’s going to shift the economy in Blythewood, and it’s going to shift the community to a greater level,” said Singletary, 33, owner of JS Premier Real Estate. “This opens up an opportunity for a lot of people who can’t really find their way out.” 

Many rural economies across America are betting the Inflation Reduction Act, President Joe Biden’s landmark climate law, will spur an economic transformation in their communities. Cleantech manufacturing projects now pepper the country, with more than $84bn invested one year after the law’s passage, the majority of which are located in Republican-controlled districts.

Jeff Ruble, director of economic development for Richland County, has changed his views of electric vehicles and is now a supporter © Sean Rayford/FT

The influx of manufacturing dollars could revamp many of the towns and regions that have won projects. But it brings challenges too. Companies are struggling with labour shortages and some local residents are fearful of what changes the investments will bring. Republican efforts to repeal the IRA, meanwhile, could…

2023-11-11 08:00:15

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