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Editorial: Let’s make Camden and Kershaw County into a retirement haven

Posted: May 24, 2018 1:09 p.m.
Updated: May 25, 2018 1:00 a.m.

What are we waiting for?

It seems as though we’re waiting around, indefinitely, for a new DuPont or a Mercedes plant, or even some billionaire to come along and make Kershaw County the Silicon Valley east.

And that’s probably not going to happen -- at least, not like that and not any time soon. True, we have had some successes in retaining existing industries; we are told we have done the right things and taken the right steps.

Yet, as was pointed out in the Chronicle-Independent’s recent in-depth stories on economic development, Kershaw County has not been successful, at all, in landing new industry.

We’ve been told we’ve come close, several times, in fact. That’s nice, but coming close does not produce jobs. The business segments that we have historically relied on are all under pressure. All over the country, the equine industry seems to be slowing down. Yes, horses will always be a beautiful and profitable enterprise -- for some. But, as we find ourselves increasingly removed from a world where every family owned a horse, we cannot rely on the equine industry as we may have in the past.

Likewise, the competition for tourism dollars is fierce -- especially when we offer neither ocean views nor cool mountain breezes, both of which pretty much guarantee an influx of tourists.

Yes, we have beautiful old homes, but, frankly, that can be said of many charming small towns in South Carolina. Indeed, we hate to break it to some folks who may believe otherwise, but we are not Charleston -- not by a long shot -- and making such comparisons is neither productive nor realistic.

Yes, we have Lake Wateree -- with Cabela’s national competitive catfish tournament and other assorted fun lake recreational activities -- but it is regarded more as a wonderful residential area whose lucky homeowners enjoy fishing, boating or peacefully enjoying the serenity and spectacular sunsets -- rather than as a tourist destination.

We can put all our emphasis and resources into industrial recruitment and tourism endeavors and our guess is we will eventually see some success. But why not add a new element to our long-term efforts?

There is one very profitable sector we believe we should aggressively pursue, right now, today -- and we don’t really need anything more than what we already have.

Just what do we have and what should we pursue, you might ask?

We have simple, relaxed, small Southern town charm with a flourishing cultural scene and quite a number of outdoor amenities -- and that’s perfect for older people looking for an affordable, yet quality life style.

Our assets and advantages are real enough: a vibrant, active Fine Arts Center, a country club with a Donald Ross-designed golf course and various museums, including Historic Camden, the Camden Archives and Museum, the National Steeplechase Museum and the new African American Cultural Center. We have a wide variety and large number of sporting, social and cultural events all year, from music, art and drama offerings at the FAC to sporting events -- we even have the only national convocation of Boykin Spaniel enthusiasts in the country. The new tennis and pickleball complex, now up and running, coupled with our beautiful parks and outstanding walking trails offer great exercise opportunities as well.

We have good restaurants and shopping -- some of the best antiquing in the state can be found right here. For the outdoorsman, we have an abundance of hunting, fishing and equestrian activities.

Then -- as is so often touted -- there is our close proximity to Columbia, Charleston, and Charlotte with its international airport.

We also have a quality local healthcare system as well as access to others, including research centers such as MUSC and Duke University.

So, why not go a step farther and attract people to live here? More specifically, why aren’t we marketing Camden and Kershaw County as the ideal place to retire?

Before anyone complains about population growth, note that we are suggesting emphasis on marketing to retirees. Yes, they obviously require such services as police and fire protection and medical care; indeed, they will likely pay more into the healthcare system than younger people.

Also, let’s keep in mind that they will eat and shop locally, spending money in local businesses and restaurants.

They will buy our houses. According to Realtor.com, there are currently more than 300 lots and homes available at all price points in Kershaw County.

They will pay local taxes.

They are usually empty-nesters -- no children to further strain the school system.

Because they are no longer in the workforce, they have time for other activities, such as volunteering -- and they usually bring impressive skill sets to those volunteer positions. Retirees would also likely be generous with our local charities. They likely would become active members of our thriving and diverse houses of worship. Because they are no longer in the workforce, they are less likely to be adding to traffic density during peak times. They enjoy active social lives, but are unlikely to engage in risky, dangerous or anti-social behaviors.

We firmly believe we need to market this area to retirees who are looking for a beautiful, affordable place to live that offers a high quality of life. We really do have it all -- great people, warm climate, many cultural and recreational amenities, low taxes, affordable housing, good local and regional medical care.

We are, in fact, a potential retirement mecca, and we need to get that message out to everyone, loud and clear. Furthermore, we recommend that Kershaw County use a portion of its $750,000 economic development budget to try to promote and market us as a true retirement haven. The Chronicle-Independent strongly urges the municipalities and the county to make those efforts -- and to do it now.

It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

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