Tourism Is Topic Of Industry Appreciation Luncheon

By Betsy Finklea
Dillon County’s industries were honored at the Dillon County Public-Private Partnership’s Industry Appreciation Luncheon held at Twin Lakes Country Club on Friday, May 17th.
Mike Tyler, chairman of the Economic Development Public-Private Partnership Board, welcomed all in attendance. He said while they welcome new businesses, they also appreciate those who have been here many years.
Robert Abson, treasurer of the board, gave the prayer.
Everyone then enjoyed a delicious meal and dessert.

Photos by Johnnie Daniels/The Dillon Herald
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Quality Of Life
Pat Laird spoke about some of the events that are enhancing the quality of life in the community. One of these is the traveling Smithsonian exhibit called “Crossroads: Change in Rural America” which will be on display in the law library at the Dillon County Courthouse. It is a museum on Main Street exhibition. It will be on display from May 18- June 29, Monday thru Friday from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. and Saturdays, June 8 and 22, from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.
Events will be held in conjunction with the exhibit. The first was a documentary that was shown in May. On June 8th, a Communal Pen writing workshop, limited to 25 participants, will be held. Registration is required. Register at
An evening with Judge James Lockemy, “All Roads Lead Home,” will be held at 6:30 on June 13 at the Dillon County Theatre.
Another part of the exhibit is the Smithsonian Institute Museum on Main Street Stories: Yes (Youth Engagement and Skill Building). Students at Lake View High School and Latta Middle School made video stories which can be viewed at They are also being aired at the exhibit.
A Young Artists Mural Project, sponsored by the Carolinas Arts Guild, will also be on display. Lake View High School students participated. The panels depict rural life.
The Dillon County Health Initiative is sponsoring Prep-Up Farmers Markets from May thru October on the Second Monday from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. The markets will feature local vendors, live entertainment, and themed activities.
The May Farmers Market featured 17 vendors. The Dillon County bookmobile came as well as the Hartsville bubble guy. They would like to establish a covered farmers market.
Other things that the Dillon County Health Initiative has done is to provide free plants and vegetables to the community through their “Growing Good Health” initiative. They have established 27 raised bed gardens at the schools. All third graders were given a free, four-pack of tomato plants.

Mike Tyler introduced the guest speaker, Duaru Parrish, Director of SCPRT (South Carolina Parks, Recreation, and Tourism).
Parrish said among SCPRT’s duties are operating the state’s nine welcome centers, 47 state parks, destination marketing, and tourism and recreation development.
Tourism is a $22.6 billion industry in South Carolina, and by many measures is one of the top industries in the state. The tourism industry has grown by 50 percent since 2010. As of 2018, there have been sic consecutive years of record tourism growth.
Parrish said we have an unparalleled selection of destinations in South Carolina, and one can travel from the mountains to the beach in the same day.
The tourist industry has experienced growth and had a positive impact in Dillon County. Since 2010, there has been a 51.5 percent increase in domestic visitor spending. There has been a 16 percent increase in jobs in the tourism industry, and a 20 percent increase in accommodations tax collections, which is the two percent collected statewide on local hotels.
“Dillon County is in the perfect position to expand tourism growth,” said Parrish.
He said Dillon County was a pioneer in tourism on Highway 301 with one of the first mammoth tourist attractions, South of the Border. He said Alan Schafer had the foresight in the area and served as the model for many people today.
Parrish said I-95 is one of Dillon County’s greatest assets. He said I-95 is a pipeline of millions of visitors.
The visitor experience for many people when they come across the boarder into South Carolina are the Welcome Centers. Parrish said for man the welcome centers are the “front porch” into South Carolina. Most were built in the 1970s.
It was decided that it was time to upgrade the Welcome Centers. They started the renovations at the I-26 Welcome Center and then built Welcome Centers at Fort Mill and Hardeeville.
They have started construction at the Dillon Welcome Center.
During the renovations, they try to use something local to highlight the area. The Dillon Welcome Center will have a tobacco theme with a tobacco barn look. They are including new technology.
Welcome Centers are still relevant because they provide restrooms, visitor information, and a persla touch by travel counselors certified by U.S. Travel. Approximately one and a half million visitors stop at the Dillon Welcome Center each year.
Parrish said Dillon County had a array of tourism assets such as the golf course and the state park for camping, fishing, and other activities. Parrish said we also have many assets such as Shuler’s barbecue which is on the BBQ Trail and Blenheim Gurigerale. Dillon County also has The Columns and Abingdon Manor, which combine the comforts of home with Southern hospitality. This campaign promotes areas off the beaten path. Parrish said millennials are looking for authenticity, and they are finding it in these rural areas- not in the cities. This campaign influenced 700,000 trips to Undiscovered South Carolina last year.
Parrish said the county’s greatest assets are the people. He said the memories people carry back are the people who they talk to while they are there. He said Inland Port Dillon brings more commerce and attention to the area.
“Economic development starts with tourism,” Parrish said.
County Administrator Tony Clyburn thanked Parrish for what SCPRT does in Dillon County.
Dillon County Economic Development Director Clay Young said he wanted to personally thank all of the industries in Dillon County.

Economic Development
“Every industry makes Dillon County a great place to live and work,” Young said.
Young said since he first came as Dillon County Administrator in 2001, things are much different. There is much more activity than back then. The Inland Port has caused some of this. There is a great deal of activity due to the S.C. Department of Commerce, NESA, and I-95. He said they have got to great team to make things happen.
Young said they are getting more activity than we have ever had. He said NESA has been a great partnership for Dillon County.
Young said they are working on re-doing their marketing materials, website, etc.
Young said they are doing a water and sewer evaluation for the whole county with a $100,000 grant that he secured while working at the Pee Dee Regional Council of Governments. NESA and the City of Dillon provided the $20,000 match.
Young also secured $200,000 for a master plan for S.C. Ports Authority for the area around the Inland Port.
Young said they are looking at every way they can attract industry. They are looking for marketing activities to participate in throughout the state and country.
He made a few concluding remarks.
Mike Tyler thanked everyone for coming and thanked those who organized and worked to make the event a success.
The members of the 2019 Economic Development Public Private Partnership Board are Mike Tyler- Chairman, Linda Hayes- Vice-Chairman, Robert Abson- Treasurer, A. LaFon LeGette, Jr., J. Todd Davis, Haywood Proctor, Johnnie Luehrs, Ronnie Gardner, David K. Bethea, Josephine Gilchrist, Keith Allen, Ben Fleming, William Fleming, Stuart Ames, Bobby Holland, Richard Schafer, Kellen Riley, Kyle Wagner, Nancy Brigman, Matthew Elvington, and Allen Strickland.