There have been several former manufacturers that have vacated their buildings, but many of the unused former industrial spaces aren’t conducive to modern needs, he said.
“You have older facilities. … They were geared toward a certain way of doing business,” he said.
Manufacturing jobs have dropped considerably in Anderson County and South Carolina, and many of the manufacturers are seeking different types of buildings.
“The environment’s changed. If you don’t have what the majority of folks are looking for, you’re at a disadvantage,” he said.
Anderson County’s 12.5 unemployment rate is quite a bit higher than the 9.7 percent national average, and slightly higher than the state’s 11.7 percent unemployment rate. South Carolina’s unemployment rate is one of the highest in the nation, only higher than that of Michigan, Nevada, Rhode Island, Oregon and California.
But Anderson County does have several advantages for potential businesses — fewer unions, more affordable wages and a mild climate that’s not conducive to natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes, Panasko said.
And many auto industries have been finding a home in the South.
Greenville is Michelin’s headquarters for North America and the only manufacturing location for BMW, while Clemson will hold the International Center for Automotive Research.
“I think with the whole migration to the Southeast, you really have to look at the big picture,” Panasko said. “It’s not just our area. You have in very close proximity VW setting up shop in Chattanooga, Tenn., you have the Mercedes in Alabama, you have several manufacturers in Georgia. The list goes on. They’ve come south because of the work force, the accessibility, they don’t have the same barriers that they would have if they were in the Midwest or Northeast. It’s just a much friendlier environment for them to come in.”