By Betsy Finklea
Economic developers, including Clay Young from Dillon County, spoke at Congressman Tom Rice’s Coastal and Pee Dee Economic Development Summit at Florence-Darlington Technical College’s SIMT building on Wednesday.
A handful of Dillon County officials and interested residents were in attendance along with others from across the region and state.
Jeff McKay of NESA moderated this section of the summit. He said this was a group dedicated to seeing what they could do to stimulate jobs and economic development.
Ron Munnerlyn, who serves the dual role of economic developer and county administrator in Marlboro County, was the first to speak. He said their county council had completed the strategic and planning process. They announced 130 new jobs in December. They have under five percent unemployment.
They are working on the redevelopment of the Delta textile site, a heavy industrial site that can handle eight million gallons in wastewater.
The biggest issue that they face in Marlboro County is workforce. They have about 9,000 people in the workforce and about as many that are not active.
He said the county council made a building available to NETC for a vocational training center. They have also partnered with PDRTA for a bus system to transport people to work. Funding has been provided for this bus service for three years.
Munneslyn said workforce is a difficult issue and sometimes a generational problem to solve.
Brian Tucker of Georgetown County was next to speak. He said they are really studying where people go to work, what they are doing, and how to create these opportunities with higher wages in Georgetown County.
Tucker said they had a good year. They are a heavy industrial county, and they continue to recruit for this. He said opportunity zones will be a good tool for them.
Tucker said they are staring to see seniors efforts from private developers to build spec buildings.
He said there are about 150 jobs at the steel mill. They are looking at how to get the steel mill barge access, and he thinks that can be accomplished. They are looking into dredging the inner harbor channel.
Georgetown grows more timber than 43 other counties so they have a competitive advantage in the wood products market.
Front street in Georgetown continues to be a popular tourist destination.
Sandy Daws of Myrtle Beach Economic Development said they had a great year with 289 new jobs and #135 million in capital investment.
There will soon be an announcement in the Little River area of 20 new jobs and $500,000 in capital investment.
They also have workforce issues. They are working with Santee Cooper on product development.
Dr. Julie Norman of Marion County was next to speak. She said they recently had two new announcements and expect two to three more in the next 60 days. She also spoke about the Carolinas Hospital-MUSC deal. They have a number of inquires. They also have a spec building soot to be completed.
Norman said they have had serious discussions about cold storage and hope to take advantage of Inland Port Dillon.
She said they have come a long way and hope more great things are on the horizon.
Frank Willis of Darlington County Economic Development was the next to speak. He said things were slow in Darlington County Last year. They had one announcement, southern current, a $300 million solar farm that created no jobs, but put $1 million a month in the county treasury for 30 years.
He said they are looking for a better year in 2019. They did not have one legitimate prospect last year, and now they have two. Expansions and growth within the county was significant, but some didn’t go public because they didn’t want to have to compete for workforce.
They also need to develop the workforce as 70 percent of Darlington students will not go to college.
One of the biggest allies is NESA.
Kim Burch of Chesterfield County said they have a population of 47,000. They are the largest metalworking county per capita and have the third largest granite pit. They have water that serves companies such as Nestle and Deer Park. They have eight turns and “a lot of good industry.”
Steura recently bought their last building. They are the only place in the U.S. where Steura will be grown.
They serve as the home base of NETC. They have had a good year.
Lauren Stanton, Assistant Director of Florence County Economic Development, said last year, they had $89 million in investment and 521 jobs that were combinations of new projects and existing industry.
One of their goals in 2019 is making sure industry is involved with students in grades k-12 for future workforce development.
Honda celebrated their 20th year in Florence County last year.
Some of their other industries includes Ruiz Foods, McCall Farms, Otis Elevators, and QVC.
They have a 100,000 sq. ft. spec building and are developing a 200,000 sq. ft. spec building. They are also working on rail-serve sites and taking advantage of opportunities zones.
The last speaker was Clay Young, Dillon County’s new economic developer. He said when he came to 2001 as county administrator, he worked to see that they could do to promote economic development. He said they needed infrastructure, and they needed workforce. Workforce is still an issue.
He said the press that Inland Port Dillon was getting throughout the state and East Coast is a tremendous marketing tool for Dillon County. He said when he worked to bring this project to Dillon County, hw knew it would have regional and statewide implications.
Young said they have three to four active projects and three to four more projects on the table.
He spoke about the importance of planning. He said economic development starts with a good plan. He said Dillon County is starting to see benefits from planning that occurred 10–15 years ago.
Two things that they are currently working on is a countywide water and sewer study and a master plan for the Ports Authority.
“Dillon County has tremendous opportunity,” Young said.
By Betsy Finklea