Refrigerators will no longer be made at GE Appliances manufacturing plant in Camden.
The company is spending $60 million to switch to production of water heaters at the facility. It will be the only GE plant in the U.S. making the new product line, said spokeswoman Julie Wood.
The announcement is part of a larger realignment within the company. GE has invested $600 million nationwide making production changes at its facilities, resulting in 1,200 new jobs since May of last year, Wood said.
The Camden plant will retain its roughly 150 employees, putting them to work tearing down the current line and rebuilding it with the new equipment, Wood said. The first water heaters are expected to roll off the line in the fourth quarter of 2020.
Kershaw County is glad for GE Appliances’ adjustment to “market changes,” said Economic Development Director Peggy McLean. She said the county council is developing a fee in lieu of property taxes agreement with the company for its investment.
Of GE’s nine plants nationwide, three were making refrigeration products.
“The water heater market is a big opportunity for us,” Wood said, with 8 million units sold annually.
GE has made smaller, high efficiency water heaters in the past without much demand. This will be first time for the company making the more predominant tank style of water heater, Wood said.
GE will discontinue the line of refrigerators that had been made in Camden. Loss of production here coincides with a $115 million renovation of the company’s refrigeration plant in Decatur, Ala., announced last June.
The Camden water heater plant will have one manufacturing line making multiple models of different sizes, Wood said.
The plant remodel is expected to have a $620 million economic impact on Kershaw County over the next five years, according to a Capital Policy Analytics.
Water heater production is expected to have “more (production) growth potential than refrigeration had in the past,” Wood said.
The GE plant in Camden has been open for about 20 years. Owned by Haier Group, it was the first Chinese company to establish manufacturing operations in the U.S., according to the South Carolina Department of Commerce.
In 2016, the company spent $72 million to construct a 250,000-square-foot addition to the Camden facility in order to increase annual refrigeration production to 500,000 units.