Members of Kershaw County Council attended the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees meeting Tuesday evening to hear a presentation on a possible joint economic development campus here. Others attending the meeting included representatives from Central Carolina Technical College (CCTC), the city of Camden, the towns of Bethune and Elgin, Kershaw County Committee of 100, Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce, KershawHealth, Santee Lynches Council of Governments, the Kershaw County Vocational Education Foundation and Santee-Wateree Rural Transit Authority.
Board Chair Mara Jones thanked those in attendance, adding that it was inspiring to see representatives from so many elected bodies present.
“It’s a good start for us to work collaboratively to move Kershaw County forward,” Jones said. “It brings a lot of synergy to the table.”
Materials included with the board’s agenda stated that the county, school district and CCTC hope to provide the following to the community:
• a highly educated and well-trained workforce;
• opportunities for business and industry to initiate start up activities;
• the ability for business and industry to train, retrain and evaluate workers; and
• a center for the county’s economic development activities.
Kershaw County Administrator Vic Carpenter said a steering committee made up of representatives from CCTC, Kershaw County School District (KCSD), Applied Technology Education Campus, Adult Education, the county and Kershaw County Economic Development Office developed the concept of the joint campus. KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan said the committee also received guidance from and introduced Eddie Rodelsperger, who had once been chief construction officer for Horry County.
Carpenter said the steering committee’s mission was to “develop a strategy that will make Kershaw County the most attractive county in South Carolina for business and industry to locate and expand.” Kershaw County Economic Development Director Peggy McLean said that “the number one factor in the site location decision” is whether the county can provide “the people with the skills to operate (a new) plant.”
CCTC President Tim Hardee said that another positive and attractive initiative CCTC has made is the “business incubator concept.” Hardee said the incubator provides upcoming businesses with the training space they may need. He said CCTC provided space at its F.E. DuBose campus to serve as an incubator with the opening of a Continental Tire plant in Sumter. McLean pointed out that Kershaw County’s neighboring counties and “competitors” are moving forward.
Morgan said additional discussion opportunities will be available, both among community members and county governing bodies. He said that finding partners -- state, federal, private and local -- to share the cost burden of development was critical. Morgan said phasing and schematic design of the facility would need to be developed, along with funding strategies. Another following step would be to explore additional joint planning and use opportunities, Morgan said.
Council Vice Chair Stephen Smoak said he agreed with McLean’s assertion that economic development was a highly competitive field and that Kershaw County’s neighbors and competitors were making clear strides forward.
“We cannot continue to sit idly by,” Smoak said. “This is a step in the right direction.”
Councilman Jimmy Jones said he needed to know “how much money” would be required to develop the joint campus along with “where the money is coming from.”
Carpenter said the issue would be added for discussion at council’s next meeting.
In other news, the board:
• heard a report from the South Carolina School Board Association Convention attended by trustees Nissary Wood, Shirley Halley, Ron Blackmon and Lewis Clyburn;
• heard a report delivered by Trustee Matt Irick on the board’s Feb. 25 facilities and finance committee meeting;
• voted unanimously to waive fees (excluding custodial fees) for the city of Camden to use Zemp stadium for a Mother’s Day program; and
• voted unanimously to waive fees to allow the Kershaw County Baptist Association to use the track at North Central High School.