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Letter: More parts to economic development

Posted: April 23, 2018 1:54 p.m.
Updated: April 24, 2018 1:00 a.m.

Your recent in-depth look at economic development in Kershaw County was an example of good research and reporting. However, two key elements were missing from your story -- disposal into the Wateree River and availability of an educated workforce.

A number of years ago, I worked for a small newspaper in Kershaw, where I tackled this subject as well. Economic development is directly tied to disposal rights into the Wateree River. If an industry cannot treat and dispose waste into the river, they will pass Kershaw County right on by. There are many stakeholders when it comes to disposal rights. Each stakeholder holds onto their allotted capacity with a death grip. No one wants to relinquish their disposal capacity -- especially to a competitor. At the time, I interviewed DuPont plant manager John Strait regarding this question. Knowing fully he was on the record, Strait acknowledged what everyone had been whispering. “If a business wants to locate in Kershaw County and all they need to do is flush the toilet, I will have a crew over there on the weekend to move them in. If they want to dispose into the river, we will fight them tooth and nail.”

I venture to say the current stakeholders do not want to give up any of their disposal capacity into the river, which is a finite number.

Unfortunately, our section of the Wateree River has low dissolved oxygen and naturally occurring metals. We are also affected by waste disposal upstream. This means our waste load capacity is lower than other areas along the river.

I did another article on management flight from Kershaw County. The direction of the interviews with various plant managers in the county certainly surprised me and leaders in the community. I really thought shopping, nightlife, culture, restaurants and life in the capital city would be the direction of the story. Overwhelmingly, the plant managers said that education in the county was a huge factor for them living in other counties. The availability of plant-based skills, education and work ethic also played a major role in locating to the area, or if expansion were going to occur. All of the plant managers at that time said the work ethic from the students graduating high school and technical college was not satisfactory.

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