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Summer is a comin’ in

Posted: July 3, 2014 8:26 a.m.
Updated: July 4, 2014 5:00 a.m.

My point of view with this monthly column is to identify and celebrate positive energies in the community, the building blocks of a vibrant city and county. In that context, the June 24 runoff victory of retired Gen. Julian Burns as the Republican candidate for chairman of the Kershaw County Council offers a worthy challenge to his Democratic opponent, former County Councilman Bobby Gary. In the meantime, we remain grateful to present and continuing Chairman Gene Wise. Mr. Wise has brought new energy and innovation to KershawHealth and to the expanding Central Carolina Technical College; both developments offer possible game changers for the city and county.

The South Carolina economic turnaround continues. In the latter part of May, the S.C. Department of Commerce announced three projects (Giti Tire, the Lash Group, LPL Financial) that represented the biggest single day of job announcements in the state’s history, with a combined total of 7,100 jobs and $800 million in capital investment -- a total of 56,239 jobs and $13.6 billion in capital investment since 2011. In addition, in the last six months, Toray’s billion-dollar decision to build its first consolidated carbon fiber plant in the U.S. in the Upstate represents one of the largest initial capital investments in South Carolina history. For two years in a row, South Carolina is now leading the nation in jobs recruited through foreign direct investment, and the state’s unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level in nearly 13 years.

Some recent remarks in a letter to the Chronicle to the effect that Camden is stuck in the past and likely to remain so deserve some serious updating. In sum, a group of dedicated professional men and women are working at city hall under the city manager and the Public Works Department to keep this historic city spanking new. The burying of the utility lines, as many as we can afford, year to year, provides one recent example of the city’s intent, always with limited funding, to push into a better future. Thanks to staffer Caitlin Corbett, the city website remains up-to-the minute and continuously incorporates new social network advances. Our brand-new wastewater plant, a facility we could easily take for granted, proves to be the most technically advanced facility of its kind in the United States.

The school district, under Dr. Frank Morgan, incorporates continual experimentation and innovative practices, from the OrganWise Guys nutritional program to Jackson Elementary School Principal Matia Goodwin’s motivational practices based on Steven Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.” Our equine business presents a thriving commercial venture in competition with Aiken, Tryon, Wellington and Ocala. With planned construction of a second covered arena, the S.C. Equine Park grows, just as the animal shelter is also expanding. Finally, the proposed road diet grant application intended to improve the retail shopping district, with the enthusiastic endorsements of our two U.S. Senators, went to D.C. with the expectation of success.

The city and county economic development offices have developed a business-focused economic development strategy; they work to engage manufacturing companies worldwide, as the city and county -- in concert with private ownership and investment -- support state-of-the-art industrial parks that invite jobs and employment opportunities. In 2002, South Carolina was the second state by one year, after North Carolina, to create certified industrial sites in an effort to attract manufacturing. Kershaw County now boasts six industrial parks. Needless to say, with BMW and Michelin and related companies, the Upstate industrial parks have been “booked;” by all reports manufacturing interests are now moving into the Midlands. If we in Kershaw County have not yet achieved the economic results we intend, we are on our way.

The allegation of some few observers that we in Camden are still living in “Gone With the Wind” misunderstands Camden and underestimates the South. This sometimes beleaguered, continually questioning culture in the last hundred years, has, as one example, produced extraordinary music, mostly from the African American community, that has electrified the entire world, producing billions of dollars in revenue and a rich legacy for the human race. Twentieth and 21st century literature from this region has also proven to be of global importance; one work after another resonates with brilliance. Every block in this little city boasts musicians, writers, painters, poets and scholars. Here, too, the South’s Civil Rights movement has offered critical moral direction to a complex and diverse world population. Perhaps it’s a truism to say so, but from defeat and sorrow has come transformation and new purpose.

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