A Winnsboro television manufacturer appears to have been saved just weeks before it planned to close due to tariffs.
Element Electronics was granted a waiver by the federal government this week that would allow it to continue importing the Chinese-made components it uses — saving 134 jobs which would have been laid off if the plant closed. The company had been resigned to the layoffs last month, saying it would be impossible to operate its current thin profit margin while paying the higher tariff prices.
“Very few people thought that we would have a chance to keep the plant open,” State Sen. Mike Fanning, D-Fairfield, said. “This is the best piece of news that Fairfield County’s had in years. And much needed.”
Fanning credited a bipartisan effort by predominantly-Democratic local leaders and Republican state officials. He said Gov. Henry McMaster’s administration and White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney — who used to represent the county in Congress — were critical to swaying the federal Department of Commerce to grant the waiver and exempt Chinese-made component parts which Element Electronics needed.
“We kept focused on not debating the merits of a tariff policy in America,” Fanning said. “But simply the merit of an exemption for the part used to make TVs in our South Carolina plant.”
Element demonstrated to federal officials that it could not afford the tariffs and had no American suppliers which make the parts they need. The company is the only American television manufacturer.
The governor’s spokesman called the move “good news.” “The governor has said from day one that we needed to exercise patience throughout this process and most of us have done that,” spokesman Brian Symmes stated in an email. “This is great news for Fairfield County, Element Electronics, and all of Team South Carolina that worked hard to make sure the facts were known and that Element’s case was made to the administration.”
Challenger James Smith praised the announcement, but said the state “dodged a bullet” that should never have been fired from President Trump’s tariffs. Smith had slammed McMaster for not criticizing the tariffs, despite traditional Republican hostility towards them.