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Finding the way to great expectations

Posted: March 19, 2015 5:35 p.m.
Updated: March 20, 2015 1:00 a.m.
Jim Tatum/C-I

Camden Mayor Tony Scully delivers a “State of the City” address during the Camden Business Alliances’ Breakfast Before Hours event at the historic Robert Mills Courthouse on Wednesday morning. Scully said the city is working with the county on economic matters while pursuing its own projects, such as the renovation of Rhame Arena.

All things considered, Camden Mayor Tony Scully is pleased with the state of the city.

Scully and Kershaw County Council Chairman Julian Burns addressed about 50 people who attended a Camden Business Alliance Breakfast Before Hours event Wednesday morning at the Robert Mills Courthouse.

Scully, who has attended three major municipal conferences in the last year, said his discussions with representatives from other cities has not only reinforced his positive take on the state of affairs here but also given him insights into areas Camden needs to explore.

“We are in very good shape -- and I’m not being Pollyanna about it, either,” Scully said. “When you listen to other small towns’ problems, we are doing well. Occasionally, we forget we are a city of 7,000 people -- we have high expectations. But we have layers of generations who have contributed to this city. We are a vibrant city.”

That said, no one is resting on laurels; indeed, Scully said the city moving forward with several projects – such as the renovation of Rhame Arena -- and continues to contribute toward and partner with other projects, such as the completion of Historic Camden’s McCaa’s Tavern as a working food and beverage establishment similar to such establishments in Colonial Williamsburg, in Virginia. The city is also working with the county on other initiatives, including assisting with Capella’s purchase of KershawHealth and the expansion of Central Carolina Technical College (CCTC), he said.

“There has been some talk that the city and the county needs to work together,” Scully said. “Well, we are -- we’ve been working together better than we know.”

Scully also encouraged local businesses to think globally when it comes to marketing and sales strategies.

“What I have learned is that we are in a deep global economy,” he said. “I know some of us would like to throw way the cellphone, get rid of email and all that. But this is where we are -- it’s a revolution.”

He mentioned a business owner he recently spoke to who owns an antique store in Newberry.

“They now get 97 percent of their business from the internet -- only 3 percent walk in the store,” he said.

Scully encouraged local business owners to consider pooling resources to hire an expert to help them step up their global online presence as well as help each other with ideas.

Burns, who has made no bones about the fact that his main priority is economic development, gave a brief presentation of the state of the county and what he wants to try to accomplish in the next four years.

“I don’t see Kershaw County as a great place -- I see it as ‘the’ great place,” Burns said. “We are well-run -- we’re in the black -- we are open for business.”

He said the county has much to offer, including a natural setting, good positioning on transportation networks, human capital, a good history of adaptation and past performance, schools, recreation and tourism with enlightened funding ideas and engaged leadership.

Nonetheless, Burns admitted Kershaw County has been missing out on new industry. In fact, Kershaw County has not seen a significant industrial announcement in nearly a decade, he said.

“We need to figure out what we’re doing wrong and fix that,” he said.

One point not lost on Burns is customer service. To that end, he said the county needs to take care of its existing industrial customers while it courts new businesses.

“The way to do that is to find out who they are, then find out what they want and get it to them,” Burns said.

He said he has been seeking out and meeting with industry leaders. The No. 1 thing they currently want is a trained, ready workforce, according to Burns. That’s where partnerships with CCTC, the school district, the Applied Technology Education Campus, and other such entities come into the equation, he said.

As to attracting new business, “move-in” ready industrial sites and other such infrastructure are important to those efforts, Burns said. The county is working on that side of the equation as well, he said.

But, ultimately, Burns said the most important factor is a concerted, organized team effort from both public and private entities, most importantly, the citizens of Kershaw County.

To that end, everyone needs to agree on a common vision and work together to achieve it, Burns said. He refers to this as “Start with Why.”

“Finding out the why will go a long way in figuring out how to get there,” he said. “We also need to concentrate on that, then look at the funding mechanisms.”

He pointed to the recent failed school bond referendum. While differing opinions are making the rounds as to why it did not pass, Burns said the bottom line reason the referendum failed is simpler.

“The referendum did not go well because we couldn’t agree on a common vision,” he said. “It’s not about new schools here or there, or about Zemp Stadium, or anything else -- it’s about us.”

Not everyone will always agree on everything, he acknowledged. However, the conversations need to remain civil, Burns said.

“This has to be a team effort -- government is not the solution, we the people are,” he said. “We need your help.”

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