The South Carolina Samsung Effect
In 2017, Samsung Electronics Home Appliances America (SEHA) established the company’s first U.S.-based home appliance manufacturing facility in Newberry County, South Carolina. When Samsung first announced plans to build a state-of-the-art home appliance factory the year prior, a litany of new business opportunities soon followed.
Since then, the Newberry facility has become an essential part of the local economy, generating nearly $500 million in capital investment for the region and now directly supporting over 1,500 jobs for local residents as part of its ongoing operations. The so-called “Samsung effect” has trickled into the Newberry community in more ways than one.
“When SEHA came we saw hotels being built and new restaurants. The community has just exploded,” said Bobby Stevens, SEHA Production Manager. “Everywhere you turn you have new housing developments coming, new restaurants are coming, so the whole community is growing as a whole.”
For small businesses like Figaro the Dining Room, a restaurant located in downtown Newberry, the global company’s presence has provided much needed support and an added sense of security. Over time, it’s become a symbiotic relationship – Samsung uses Figaro for catering services often and its employees are also regular patrons at the restaurant.
“For a town to get better, you have to have people, so with these bigger corporations like Samsung coming in, they’re bringing in good-paying jobs which makes the economy and the town better, which I think is very important because I want to live here the rest of my life,” said John Worthington, Figaro Executive Chef. “We need those plant jobs to help push things along. Not everything can be done by small business. Small businesses cannot employ 1,000 people. But once that company comes in, it’s our job to keep them here and not have them move to some other place or go eat at some other place, we have to add to their lifestyle.”
Samsung’s move to South Carolina created room for another Korean-based company to set up shop stateside. KRA Operations, which provides stamping and injection molding parts for SEHA, followed soon after. It was a fortuitous opportunity for the company to expand operations and bring along some of its workforce to the United States.
“When we first started here, our business was very new to us and we were skeptical about how we can apply ourselves to this new environment but I was very surprised when I met the local people,” said William Chang, CEO of KRA Operations. “The Newberry community has been very welcoming and accepting of Korean culture and the KRA Koreans are happy to be here in South Carolina and experience a new culture.”
Having KRA located within close proximity to Samsung makes managing quality and supply logistics much easier and efficient.
“Previously everything was coming in from across the ocean, so if we had any part shortages, any delays, any material defects, we would have to wait forever,” said Stevens. “But now, we have local material, so in just a few hours or even 10 minutes, we can get parts and the materials we need to keep everything going, so that’s made a big impact on production here.”
The professional partnership between the two companies has evolved over the years. Stevens added that KRA is now considered an extended arm of Samsung.
“There have been instances when they’ve come in and brought in staff to help relieve us and there’s times where we’ve sent staff members over to them to help speed up the processes and make things happen. So, we are each other’s right hand,” Stevens said.
KRA Purchasing Specialist Mersade Studebaker echoed the same sentiment, which particularly resonates as the world grapples with various post-pandemic pain points.
“I honestly believe that if Samsung and KRA were not here, there would be a struggle,” Studebaker said. “I really think there would be a bit of a struggle especially with inflation and prices going up, people need to be working, people need jobs and we’re able to do that because of Samsung.”