Citing growing demand for its products, Continental Tire the Americas LLC said it will build a new 1 million-square-foot tire factory in Sumter, S.C.

The $500 million plant, to be located on a 330-acre greenfield site off U.S. Highway 521, will create 1,600 new jobs, the company said.

Greg Thompson, chairman of the Sumter Economic Development Board, noted that Continental's new factory will be "the largest industrial investment the county has ever seen."

"Somehow the word 'big' just doesn't seem big enough," Thompson said. "In a matter of a few short years, this new facility will go from an idea to one of the largest economic drivers in our community."

The company expects to begin construction of the plant in mid-2012 and complete the facility in 2013.

Continental Tire said it will ramp up production at the new factory in two phases. In the first phase, the plant will have a production capacity of nearly 5 million passenger and light-truck tires by 2017; in the second phase, the plant's production capacity will reach 8 million tires by 2021.

"Our customers -- replacement-market retailers and automakers -- have told us they need more Continental and General brand tires," said Jochen Etzel, CEO of Continental Tire the Americas in a news release. "[The] announcement is our commitment to helping them grow their business - as we grow ours."

In 2011, Continental Tire has announced nearly $1 billion in expansion projects in the Americas region, Etzel noted.

Coinciding with the announcement of the new factory in Sumter, the company said it will spend more than $4 million to expand its Americas headquarters in Lancaster, S.C. The project will add 16,000 square feet to the facility, bringing the total size of the building to 91,000 square feet.

The Lancaster site, which is home to more than 350 employees, will add 80 new jobs over the next four years as part of the expansion.

Continental Tires the Americas, which is a division of Hannover, Germany-based Continental AG, has been growing its passenger- and light-truck-tire business at an annual clip of 20% in volume over the past two years.

In March 2011, Continental Tire the Americas announced a $220 million investment to expand production capacity at its tire plant in Camacari, Bahia, Brazil. The investment will create 400 new jobs and double capacity in the plant, according to the company.

In May, the company announced that it is investing $224 million -- and adding 444 new jobs -- at its Mt. Vernon, Ill., tire plant.