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South Carolina's governor greets Chinese industry executives at Kent factory

Published September 22, 2015

MANNING, S.C. (BRAIN) — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley warmly greeted a gathering of Chinese manufacturers on Tuesday promising them her support to do whatever it takes to interest them in setting up a factory in South Carolina.

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It was probably the first time a leading group of Chinese bicycle suppliers was greeted by a state governor.

"If you plan to set up a company here we can get a workforce for you and make sure they are trained for the tasks you need," Haley said. "And I and my staff will work hard to overcome any issues that may arise."

Thirty representatives from 23 Chinese and Taiwanese suppliers were attending Kent International's open house at its BCA bike factory in Manning.

Arnold Kamler, Kent's CEO, told the gathering it was Haley's quick support of Kent's plans to build a bike factory that led them to locate in South Carolina after visiting other state locations. And Kamler spelled out examples of how the governor and her staff have helped the company, like running a natural gas pipeline five miles to the factory location, and training employees at local technical colleges in the skills they would need at BCA.

"The plant is not even a year old so I know it is too early to get any supplier to commit to setting up a factory here; that was not my intention. I did want them to see that we are making mass market bikes here, it can be done in the U.S. and the business is growing," Kamler said.

"I want to increase the U.S. content of these bikes and I cannot do that unless a few component companies start to produce here or somewhere else in the U.S. And I hope after visiting they at least consider the possiblility of a U.S. factory," he added.

About 800 bikes a day roll off BCA's assembly lines — the first mass-produced bikes made in the U.S. since the late-'90s. Currently BCA imports frames and parts from Asia for assembly.

In early spring BCA will increase to 1,000 bikes a day. The company is in the process of adding a painting facility, with robotic welders getting set up later in the year so it can start frame production.

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