South Carolina's rise as an auto industry corridor has been a phenomenon. Far from the industry's traditional Great Lakes center, more than 400 automotive companies now operate in the state, including three European automakers — BMW, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz Vans.
But much of the what has happened in South Carolina is due to a single development: the opening of BMW's assembly plant in Spartanburg in 1994.
Twenty-five years later, BMW is still spawning auto industry investment in towns around the state.
JTEKT North America Corp. said in May it will invest $19.4 million to expand its Koyo Bearings plant in Walhalla, S.C., about an hour away from JTEKT North America's headquarters in Greenville. The plant produces bearings, thrust races and steering ball bearings. It will add 18,000 square feet onto the 173,000- square-foot plant and create 56 jobs as part of the expansion.
JTEKT North America operates 14 plants and established its headquarters in South Carolina three years ago at Clemson University's International Center for Automotive Research, an industry technology center and think tank that BMW helped create in 2006.