Why Volvo picked South Carolina over Georgia

Incentives, infrastructure and experience. Those were three factors that helped South Carolina beat out Georgia in the hunt for Volvo’s first U.S. plant.

The details trickled out Thursday at a celebratory press conference in Charleston heralding the automaker's decision to build the $500 million project near Charleston instead of outside of Savannah.

At the event, South Carolina officials pegged the tally of economic incentives for the deal at around $204 million. The State newspaper reported that the package includes perks from the state and a local electric utility company, as well as grants for site improvements and tax credits for jobs created.

Volvo executive Lars Wrebo told The Charleston Post & Courier that the state agreed to build an interchange for the Volvo plant off Interstate 26 and make other improvements to minimize highway congestion near the plant.

One of the biggest benefits, though, may have been a nearby BMW plant. Volvo Cars of North America CEO told The State that one of the first things he did was visit the rival plant, where he was heartened to hear encouraging reports from the German executives.

"You always want to avoid reinventing the wheel," Kerssemakers told the newspaper. "If they had a good experience, that would make a big difference in our decision process. They have been there for years so they know exactly how it works in South Carolina."

Georgia’s all-out effort to land the plant also included what is believed to be the largest package of incentives ever offered by the state (the details remain under seal). The loss was a heart-wrenching end for state leaders, who badly wanted a bigger piece of the auto industry’s move into the Southeast, especially after the loss of Ford and GM plants in metro Atlanta.

“They haven’t told us any reasons for it,” Deal said earlier this month when asked what Georgia could have done to land the plant. “But it’s pretty obvious that states like South Carolina have had more success with Chinese companies like Volvo than the state of Georgia has.”