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Economic Development (1 of 3)

Is Kershaw County getting its fair share of industrial business?

Posted: March 22, 2018 5:19 p.m.
Updated: March 23, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Martin L. Cahn/C-I

Kershaw County’s spec building looms large on a rise near I-20 Exit 92 in Lugoff. Still under construction, it is one of the county’s new economic development “products” designed to attract new industry.

Today, the Chronicle-Independent is devoting its entire first section to the topic of economic development, focusing on the industrial sector and using 2011 as a starting point.

That October, Kershaw County lost a bid to bring Continental Tire to the community. That half-billion dollar deal, which many local officials felt certain would come here, instead went to Sumter County, along with 1,620 jobs.

In gathering information from a variety of sources, including the S.C. Department of Commerce (SCDOC) and Kershaw County government officials, one stark fact stands out: Since the beginning of Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, South Carolina has announced nearly $10.2 billion in new industrial announcements, as opposed to expansions, creating more than 48,000 new jobs. Not all of those announcements were in the seemingly obvious locations – larger, richer, more developed counties of South Carolina. In fact, many were in smaller, rural and less affluent South Carolina counties.

Yet, according to the SCDOC, since 2011, Kershaw County has had one new industrial announcement: Diversified Information Technologies (DIT), which brought a $5.8 million investment creating approximately 25 jobs in September 2012. DIT is a document management company; it makes no products.

By contrast, Chester County -- while it boasts an interstate, I-77, as Kershaw County has I-20 -- is smaller both in terms of geography (740 vs. 586 square miles) and population (approximately 63,000 in 2015 vs. approximately 32,000). According to SCDOC’s information, since 2011, Chester County has had nine announcements for a total of $973.6 million -- nearly $1 billion -- in new industrial announcements for a total of 2,662 jobs.

One of those companies, Giti Tire in June 2014, had been looking at a site in Kershaw County, according to Kershaw County Administrator Vic Carpenter and, separately, Kershaw County Councilman Sammie Tucker Jr. Giti provided Chester County with a $560 million investment, creating 1,700 jobs.

Success for Kershaw County in the industrial arena appears to lie with expansions. According to Carpenter and Kershaw County Economic Development Director Peggy McLean, since 2011, the county has announced $300 million worth of expansions for a total of 643 jobs. Those do not automatically happen, Carpenter and McLean say because each company has multiple locations around the world, each vying to be the site of the next expansion.

There is criticism. Some officials question why McLean’s office has seen its budget double since she came on board, also in 2011, now standing at $750,000. Some officials wonder if the county’s paying $72,000 annually -- $504,000 in seven years -- for membership in the Central SC Alliance, a 501(c)(3) public/private nonprofit organization formed in 1994 that promotes its members for economic development, is money that could be better spent elsewhere.

Today’s in-depth look at economic development asks, “Why?” Why has Kershaw County only seen one tiny sliver of the $10.2 billion in new company announcements from across the state? Here, we present answers from those in charge of economic development: members of Kershaw County Council, which sets the county’s economic policies, and Carpenter and McLean, who must follow those policies.

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