An official explains the site plan for the new Volkswagen facility during a meeting with Blythewood residents Feb. 15. (Photos by Jaden Ann Cross/Carolina News and Reporter)

Scout Motors, a Volkswagen subsidiary, officially introduced itself to northeastern Richland County residents on Thursday.

The idea was to tell locals about the various stages of construction planned for the site of the future manufacturing facility near Blythewood.

“What we’re going to do here is relatively straightforward but immensely difficult,” said Scott Keogh, president and CEO of Scout Motors. “We want to bring back an American icon, we want to bring back great American jobs, and we want to make fantastic things that the world loves.”

Scout Motors halted work in September due to environmental concerns about possible harm to on-site wetlands, an area that is wet and made up of marshes or swamps. It was permitted to continue construction in early January by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

During the plant’s design, construction engineers made every effort to reduce negative impacts on the wetlands. Since some could not be avoided, county and state representatives bought thousands of acres of wetlands elsewhere as mitigation and promised to protect them. 

Richland County residents Nicole and Robert Shaffner said they are “cautiously optimistic” about Scout Motors coming to Blythewood. 

Columbia has not been included in the state’s surge in auto manufacturing until now. Charleston has both Volvo and Mercedes-Benz manufacturing plants, and Spartanburg has a BMW manufacturing facility. 

Scout Motors is attempting to rebrand Scout, its 1960s SUV forerunner, for the electric car market. 

Residents who attended the meet and greet had the opportunity to hear answers for their concerns.

“I’m cautiously enthusiastic,” said Karen David, 65, a Blythewood resident. “Road traffic, groundwater safety. Those are the two biggies. I mean, development, obviously, that will spin off from this, which is fine. It’s inevitable. But otherwise, the two big things are traffic and water quality.”

Jan Spies, chief production officer for Scout, said the company will be a longtime neighbor. 

“Whenever you think about industrial development, it’s like somebody comes, four years later, he’s gone – or he’s growing or he’s moved or sold,” Spies said.  “What we are, here, is a company that has a good reference wherever you look to go, stay and survive.”

Spies described the construction process. He explained that because the company needs to develop the facility as quickly as possible, they are concentrating on priority areas first.

Excavation of the soil is the first step. The second stage is soil stabilization, which is described as necessary by Spies because there are multiple soil types beneath the top layer. The final step is the building of infrastructure. 

According to the Scout Motor’s Blythewood website, in addition to creating potentially 4,000 or more employment opportunities, Volkswagen’s $2 billion investment to build the facility would set new records for an economic development project in Richland County.  

“The 4,000 jobs that are coming will be a great employment benefit for the local residents,” said Blythewood resident Robert White, 58. “And the new cars, the electric cars that are coming, environmentally friendly. So I think it’s a great asset to the Blythewood community.”

The S.C. Department of Commerce’s 2023 Recruitment Overview ranks Scout Motors’ investment as the state’s top investment announcement, helping the year show the second-largest investment in state history, at $9.22 billion. 

“I think it’s tremendous, tremendous,” said Councilman Derrek Pugh, who represents Richland County Council’s District 2. “It’s going to give our community and our region – you know, a lot of times people focus and say, Well, it’s a Blythewood project. It’s actually a regional project. We’re going to feel the effects from Charleston, Charlotte, to Tennessee. All those round circles are going to feel the effects of Scout Motors here in Blythewood, South Carolina.”

In January, Scout Motors partnered with the state Commerce Department and Richland County to have an in-person event to meet local suppliers. This event served to inform nearby suppliers about Scout Motors’ needs and how they might support the facility. 

A brick from the original Scout Motors factory in Fort Wayne, Indiana, which will serve as the new facility’s foundation, was on display at the event. 

“I think you can’t have a future unless you can recognize your past,” Keogh said.  

Scout Motors has an office in the Bull Street district, in downtown Columbia. The manufacturing plant will be located off Interstate 77’s Exit 27.

South Carolina, United States and Scout flags fly at the construction site. 

Scout Motors President and CEO Scott Keogh addresses Blythewood residents.

The crowd sits attentively.

A Scout Motors representative talks about plans for the auto manufacturing facility.


Ren Pusher

Ren Pusher

Pusher is a junior journalism major, minoring in hotel, restaurant, and tourism management at the University of South Carolina. She’s a South Carolina native who plans to become a travel journalist. She closely follows travel journalism and is always looking for her next adventure.

Jaden Ann Cross

Jaden Ann Cross

Cross is a senior visual communications major. She started taking photos for the Lancaster News as a college freshman and hasn’t stopped since. She hopes to be a professional content creator. She is a student in this semester’s special projects photojournalism class.