Small business owners fear loss of revenue, layoffs if aluminum plant closes

October 21, 2020

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Small business owners fear loss of revenue, layoffs if aluminum plant closes

By Harve Jacobs

GOOSE CREEK, S.C. (WCSC) – There’s more possible fallout from the threatened closing of Century Aluminum in Goose Creek.

The aluminum plant said it will close down its Mount Holly operation on Dec. 31 if its power supplier Santee Cooper doesn’t give the company a break in its rates. About 300 employees at Century Aluminum would lose their jobs.

Small business owners in the city said they will lose lots of revenue and face possible layoffs if the plant shuts down. The business owners were joined by the president and CEO of the SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce Wednesday afternoon.

They are hoping that Century Aluminum and Santee Cooper can come to a compromise. Century gets twenty-five percent of its electricity from Santee Cooper and seventy-five percent from cheaper, outside sources.

Charles Swicord is owner of Allen and Webb, an industrial supplier to Century Aluminum. Swicord said his company could lose more than $1.5 million if the plant shuts down.

“Maybe Century’s got to give a little bit, Santee Cooper will have to give a little bit, but it just doesn’t make any sense just to stare each other down and go out of business,” Swicord said.

Frank Knapp of the Small Business Chamber of Commerce says Century Aluminum generates $500 million a year to the Lowcountry economy.

“This is just another bad decision of Santee Cooper and it’s gonna devastate not only the ratepayers, it will really devastate the local economy in Goose Creek and the whole entire Charleston Lowcountry,” Knapp said.

“Co-ops were formed to provide power to rural areas at an affordable rate, that’s the purpose of co-ops in South Carolina,” said Michael Brakefield whose company Phillips Industrial Services does business with Century Aluminum.

“And if the plants are having to face closing because they can’t afford the power then something is not working,” Brakefield said.

Century Aluminum has said if they can work out a deal with Santee Cooper they will be able to bring back 300 employees who were previously laid off.

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