Goose Creek leaders, small business groups react to possible Century Aluminum closure

ABC News 4
October 20, 2020

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By Rachel Ellis

 The end could be near for Century Aluminum in Mount Holly.

Goose Creek City leaders said while the news didn’t necessarily come as a surprise, the people who work at Century Aluminum are friends, neighbors, and family.

Goose Creek Mayor Greg Habib said this possible loss is a personal one.

“There are small businesses in and around the city of Goose Creek who supply to Century Aluminum, one particular that comes to mind it’s a very significant part of his business. So, while he isn’t an employee here, his business is very reliant upon Century Aluminum,” Habib said.

Century Aluminum officials said they sent a notice to employees that the plant could close on December 31, 2020 unless they can “secure a competitively-priced power arrangement.”

Habib said the city will do everything it can to save the hundreds of jobs impacted and bring back even more.

“I can’t sit here and say one is wrong and one is not…I know that I care about the 300 people that work here at the Mount Holly aluminum smelter. The 300 people that lost their jobs several years ago and the impact that this plant has had on our community for 40 years,” Habib said.

Habib explained that the city has already communicated with the unemployment commission. He said the city will continue to evaluate the options for the Mt. Holly plant. He said the loss could affect the Goose Creek economy.

“It certainly is a negative impact to put it simply. In 2015, the University of South Carolina did a study that showed the Mt. Holly aluminum smelter has a $1 billion dollar impact on the local economy here,” Habib added.

The South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce said employees at the plant will lose jobs that average nearly $90,000 a year. The organization explained the economy will suffer dramatically.

“The crazy thing about this is Santee Cooper is the entity that’s going to make this all happen. A state agency that is supposed to be helping economic development in this state is doing exactly the opposite. They are creating an economic disaster,” President and CEO of the Small Business Chamber of Commerce Frank Knapp said.

Knapp explained that if Mt. Holly agrees to keep Santee Cooper whole, there will be a great increase for Santee Cooper customers.

ABC News reached out to Santee Cooper, who sent us a copy of an email they sent to Century Aluminum officials as well as Goose Creek leaders.

“We estimate it would take about $270 million and six to eight years to replace the capacity you now want, and increase our operating costs $80 million to as much as $160 million over that time frame – all costs that would have to be shifted and borne by our other customers – for the sole purpose of benefitting Century.” officials said.

They added they would like to offer a one-year extension on their current arrangement, which Santee Cooper said has been declined twice.

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