Former textile town prospers with a booming auto industry
When Fountain Inn was officially incorporated as a South Carolina city on Christmas Eve 1886, its economy centered largely on farming and textile mills. But as the American textile industry dried up, a variety of other manufacturers have moved in to replace those.
Many have to do with the auto industry, in part because BMW has opened a massive auto assembly plant in nearby Spartanburg County. That was followed by a Michelin tire factory. And in 2012, the German firm ZF Friedrichshafen opened a 975,000-square-foot plant with more than 1,000 employees to make eight- and nine-speed automatic transmissions in Gray Court, just five miles from Fountain Inn.
Located in the fast-growing Golden Strip along Interstate 385 through northwestern South Carolina, Fountain Inn is just 15 miles from Greenville via that superhighway and less than a half-hour from Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport. It’s just a 90-minute drive along interstates from Columbia and about a two-hours drive along Interstate 85 from both Charlotte and Atlanta. Fountain Inn’s industrial park also offers rail service.
The Greenlink Transit bus service reaches from downtown Greenville to the outskirts of Fountain Inn, and talks are underway to extend that service to Fountain Inn proper.
Michigan-based Tower International opened a $75 million, 264,000-square-foot production facility in Fountain Inn in June 2017. The plant builds metal components and assemblies for BMW.
“We have a whole new category, a whole new type of work – highly skilled, highly specialized, based on brainpower,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said when Tower held its grand opening.
Yanfeng Automotive Interiors, the world’s largest supplier of automotive interior components, recently established a 365,000-square-foot Fountain Inn plant that it acquired from Faurecia SA. Yanfeng then spent $70 million to expand the factory by 100,000 square feet, adding 35 new jobs.
Bosch Rexroth has operated a hydraulics production plant in Fountain Inn since 1989. Beginning in 2013, the company invested $80 million in a five-year project to expand its production and convert an existing 260,000-square-foot industrial warehouse into a modern manufacturing and assembly plant. The facility now encompasses more than 100 acres of land and employs 700 people.
Caterpillar operates a manufacturing logistics plant in Fountain Inn while AVX Corp. manufactures electronic components.
Other major companies that have committed to Fountain Inn and the adjoining Golden Strip include W.W. Grainger and Emitec Inc. One of the newest, Lowe’s Foods, opened about five miles away in Simpsonville in 2017.
Whether they go to work in one of those local industries or find employment 20 minutes away in bustling Greenville, newcomers find Fountain Inn to be a convenient, affordable and family-friendly place to call home.
“People want to live in Greenville County, but our housing is a little more affordable than the downtown area of the county,” Tolbert said.
Fountain Inn has been sustaining a steady growth in population, from the official census figure of 6,000 at the turn of the century to 7,799 a decade later to more than 10,000 in 2019.
Most Fountain Inn residents still live in single-family homes. But a supply of 350 market-rate apartment units recently was reinforced by a new 396-unit market-rate apartment project.
Median household income is a healthy $52,000 a year.
- Greenville County Schools
- Yanfeng Global Automotive Interiors
- Bosch Rexroth Corp.
- KS Bearings Inc.
- Rich Products Corp.
- S.C. Plastics
- ZF Transmissions
- Prisma Health
- SE Retail
- D&W Fine Pack
- Tower International
- AVX Corp.
- IPS Packaging
- Astro American Chemical
- EuroKera North Amercia Inc.
- Plastic Plate LLC
- Medals of America
- Eastern Crane Hoist
- Teknor Apex A Carolina Company
- Fuyao Glass SC Inc
- Amstead Rail
- Flame Spray North Amercia
- Gen III Group
- Maillis Strapping Systems
- Bodycote Aerospcae Defense & Energy