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Letter: Industry favors the prepared

Posted: June 4, 2018 3:32 p.m.
Updated: June 5, 2018 1:00 a.m.

I have heard arguments over the cost of economic development since I began my career in community and economic development in 1963. It was then that S.C. was experiencing major industrial investments by businesses that looked to expand in the underdeveloped Southeastern region of our nation. Leading the way in new development in S.C. during the 60s and 70s were Upstate cities and counties mainly Spartanburg and Greenville.

Favorable factors for this included the developing I-85 corridor stretching between Charlotte and Atlanta, the new jet-accommodating Spartanburg/Greenville Airport in Greer, the fact that private business and manufacturing led the economies in that area and that area was ripe for job creation because of lack of union organizations, comparable low taxes at state and local level and lower paying jobs. The emerging tech school system that trained new workers was a major asset.

Success built upon success and new economic development investments soon included major national and international corporations for more and more of our state’s progressive communities, creating new and better paying jobs and adding to the tax base of state and local government.

This economic development was most often occurring in S.C. communities readily prepared with essential infrastructure, water/sewerage, in place and attractive sites committed for development. This favored the larger and more prosperous communities.

Too many S.C. communities were still tied to the old economy based on agriculture. They tended to be smaller in population and strapped financially because there were few industrial jobs or tax payers.

I heard grumbling and comments like, “why are all the new jobs going to the Upstate” and “it’s all politics” and it was not appreciated when it was pointed out, “you are not prepared.” It was disappointing to learn that economic development is a most competitive process.

The communities that “missed the boat” or got a late start came to realize that they were not going to be players in the economic development process until they were prepared with infrastructure, a selection of secured sites, speculative industrial buildings and more aggressive efforts to compete.

I know that this is a highly completive and complex business that is not well understood. Is it a gamble? Sure is.

If you think you can reduce the amount of financial support and overall commitment to this process and still be competitive, I doubt it.

We are blessed with many attributes and we have plans to enhance and sustain them. We owe our communities nothing less that the best.

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