By Betsy Finklea
Bill Crowther, the Economic Development Representative for Congressman Tom Rice’s office, appeared at the Dillon County Council meeting last week to discuss I-73 and Inland Port Dillon.
Crowther said they see the two projects working together not only to create economic opportunity for Dillon but for the surrounding Pee Dee Area.
He presented a brochure with their tag line – “Infrastructure Equals Opportunity.”
Crowther said he would like to read a couple of paragraphs from a letter in support of I-73 that he wanted the council members to sign after the meeting.
I-73 is projected to have an economic impact of $1.98 billion in South Carolina and is expected to generate $86.1 million in state tax revenues, $43.2 million in local tax revenues, and create 29,000 jobs by the year 2030, Crowther read.
With the construction of I-73, there is a potential to change the demographic makings of our state, Crowther read. I-73 will travel through three of the most distressed areas of the state in Dillon, Marion, and Marlboro Counties. These three counties, Crowther read, have some of the highest unemployment rates and the lowest median income levels in the state. They definitely need an economic engine to reverse these trends and generate opportunity for residents.
Crowther continued saying that I-73 will not only bring thousands of construction and service jobs, but it will create a business friendly environment that will incentivize new industries to open and stores to relocate to the Pee Dee. He said it will lead to sustainable job creation and other opportunities that new businesses have to offer. Crowther said there were a couple of things that they were having to fight. He said one of these things was the Coastal Conservation League. He shared comments about this group. He said they were also having to fight the myths of I-73 such as the road was just to get tourism to Myrtle Beach. Crowther said I-73 will benefit Marlboro County, Dillon County, and Marion County through economic development. He said it will open access to the Charlotte market. He said I-73 was very important for the growth in this area. He said it is important to the inland port having an intersection of two major interstates.
Crowther said they need support for I-73.
Councilman T.F. “Buzzy” Finklea, Jr. said right now the mayor of Dillon is opposed to I-73 because they have so many fast food places and traffic is coming through Dillon and through Latta and spending money.
He said when I-73 comes through, we do not have an interchange where one can get on or off in Dillon County. He asked how these trucks are going to get to the inland port without going down to the tip of Dillon County. He said right before you get to Marion County, there is going to be an interchange. “We don’t see where it’s going to benefit us a bit,” Finklea said.
You have a big interchange at I-73 and I-95, Crowther said.
On -73 and I-95, all you can do is get off I-95 and get on I-73. You can’t get off at Oak Grove, Finklea said.
If you could change that so you could get on and off that would really help, but right now all you can do is get from I-95 to I-73 or from I-73 to I-95, Finklea said.
Crowther said you could get on I-95 and go up one exit. People are not going to do that, Finklea said. for the inland port, the trucks will, said Crowther. If there is any way you can change that, I think the people of Dillon County will probably be happy, said Finklea.
It’s not going to take away existing traffic, Crowther said. We have some studies coming out. He said this was going to be new and different traffic utilizing that road. I understand what you are saying. The exits and all that are firm, and they can’t change, Crowther said. He said a change would remove the permit.
With no other questions or comments, he ended his presentation.