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Strong year projected for econ development
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After more than $33 million in new investment and an estimated 100 jobs brought to Kershaw County in 2012, Kershaw County Economic Development Director Peggy McLean believes 2013 will be another active year in her office.

“Our activity level was good in 2012 and we anticipate it will be strong in 2013,” McLean said. “The S.C. Department of Commerce says (its) current pipeline for the number of projects (it’s) working with is good. So that’s positive news for us.”

She explained that when activity at the state level is high, prospects tend to “feed down” to the local level.

“They’re doing a great job in promoting the state,” she said, referring to the Department of Commerce. “They’re helping to get companies to consider us for their next facility and the staff there feels very comfortable bringing people here into Kershaw County.”

McLean indicated that county officials have worked effectively in helping to coordinate economic development efforts.

In particular, she pointed to the work of Kershaw County Administrator Vic Carpenter, the staff in the county’s planning and zoning department, county council, and business leaders in the community.

“They are all very supportive of economic development. When people from the outside come in, they can see that. We don’t have people fussing and fighting. They’re on the same page when it comes to economic development,” McLean said. “That allows me to feel confident that we’re going to accomplish a lot in 2013.”

Recapping the growth from 2012, she indentified three investments deals that will leave a positive mark heading into the New Year.

In April, Accuride, a supplier of commercial vehicle components, expanded its operations in Kershaw County. The company is set to invest $8.73 million to add two new machine lines for aluminum wheel production, generating at least 25 new jobs.

“They’re growing their business,” McLean said. “That’s encouraging and exciting.”

In September, Kershaw County Council wrapped up a fee-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with Diversified Information Technologies (DIT), finalizing a deal estimated to generate at least 20 full-time jobs.

DIT, based in Scranton, Pa., is also expected to make an investment of approximately $5.8 million in the county during its first five years.

McLean explained that there’s value to consider when a company decides to relocate to a new area because they can spread word about the community.

“Once they get into a community, they can see how profitable and easy it is to do business here,” she said. “If they do well at this location, then they’re better positioned for growth.”

In addition to taking over the former SPX building in Lugoff, the company purchased sites in Minneapolis, Minn.; Hartford, Conn.; and Portland, Ore.  

In October, INVISTA, a manufacturing company which specializes in polymers and fibers, expanded its Camden facility through a $20 million investment, adding an anticipated 50 new jobs by the first part of 2014.

“They continue to invest in their Kershaw County facility. That’s a testament to the outstanding work force and the business environment we have here,” McLean said.

While the county experienced some industrial growth, it also was hit with some disappointment.

In June, Yutaka, an ATV and motorcycle parts manufacturer, closed its Lugoff plant, causing 150 employees to lose their jobs.

McLean indicated that the company’s decision to shut down was due to “external economic conditions,” but noted the outcome was certainly a “blow” to the community.

Southeast Renewable Energy, a biomass company, also decided not to build a facility in Cassatt, a deal which was in the works for several years.

“They were concerned about the availability of the raw materials,” McLean said, referring to the company’s need for timber residue in order to produce wood biomass.

She said, however, that she wouldn’t necessarily categorize the company’s decision as a “major setback.”

“That’s an interesting industry,” she said. “We certainly want to bring new industry and announce investment and jobs, but they’re not all going to happen. The conditions for each company can change.”

In order to aid economic development efforts, McLean also hired Lauren Branham in October as a marketing and administrative assistant.

“I’m very excited about that. One of her major objectives right now is to upgrade our marketing efforts, specifically our website. That’s our most important marketing tool,” she said.

The county also contracted with InSite Consulting to develop a strategic plan for economic development, which outlines strategies for capital investment, job creation, and sustained economic growth.

“The plan really gives us a well thought-out road map. It’s something that will better position us for the future,” McLean said.