The West Wateree Playground Steering Committee officially “deeded” the new Kershaw County West Complex playground to the county Tuesday night. The “transfer” took place during Kershaw County Council’s meeting as part of a public presentation by co-chairs Laurey Carpenter and Elgin Mayor Melissa Emmons.
Kershaw County Administrator Vic Carpenter introduced the presenters, jokingly noting this was the first time he had referred to his wife “esteemed,” which he did in introducing the committee as an esteemed group of citizens.
“We’d like to … let you know that we are complete. This is the first project of a community endeavor for Kershaw County; not the last,” Laurey Carpenter said. “All the bills have been paid, sidewalks have been put in, (and) the playground is being fully used. I’m happy to say that over a hundred children on any given day are out there.”
Carpenter said she and Emmons were presenting the “deed” so the county could “take over the maintenance” of the playground.
“I know; isn’t that nice?” she joked, and then explained the committee felt it was only fitting for one of the children enjoying the playground make the “deed.”
The festive atmosphere continued as Carpenter and Emmons also handed out plaques of appreciation to each steering committee member. Each plaque held an aerial view of the playground, taken from a Lugoff-Fire Rescue aerial boom truck, looking much as computer-generated concept art appeared when the project first launched two years ago.
“Since the committee has worked so diligently, as the chairman, I wanted to take this time to … commend my committee because we couldn’t have done without them,” Carpenter said.
Emmons, in turn, presented a plaque to Carpenter.
“And, of course, we have to present to the one person who, had it not been for this individual, I’m not sure this would have come to a completion,” Emmons said of Carpenter.
Kershaw County Economic Development Director Peggy McLean followed Carpenter and Emmons with a 2015 review on economic development. McLean called 2015 a “great year,” citing more than $200 million in industrial capital investment in Kershaw County for the year.
“They also announced that, over the next five years, they will be creating over 550 jobs,” McLean said. “Now, those are fantastic numbers, numbers that we haven’t seen in Kershaw County in quite some time. Specific announcements included Suonimen; they added a new wetline production in Bethune -- $55 million in new machinery and equipment and 27 new jobs. Haier chose to expand its Camden plant rather than close and move to Mexico. They will be adding about 250,000 square feet to their building and putting in new machinery and equipment, and adding over 400 new jobs. Four hundred new jobs -- that is exciting news, indeed.”
McLean went on to mention INVISTA, which is adding new units requiring 20 new jobs with a $45 million commitment during the next five years, with a total $80 million commitment during the next decade. She also reminded council of INVISTA’s decision in mid-2015 to convert 200 contract jobs to full-time permanent jobs.
“And Target recently made public their plan to add 100 jobs to support their new direct-to-consumer market,” McLean added. “So what they’ll be doing is, from that existing building, fulfilling the new online sales that they have.”
A “spectacular figure” to come out of all that news, McLean said is the one-year estimated payroll of the added jobs is $19.5 million.
“So, that is a lot of money flowing through our area’s economy, money that will have a significant impact on our county. And this is why we work hard every day in the economic development department. These investments and jobs are what will drive the future of our community,” she said.
McLean said she and Marketing & Administrative Manager Lauren Reeder work hard to keep existing businesses in Kershaw County as well as to recruit new businesses.
“During 2015, we worked with 32 prospects and we had 10 meetings or visits with those prospects. These figures are up from 2014 and I feel like the momentum we have going now will carry us over to 2016,” McLean said.
She also said her office’s partners, especially the S.C. Department of Commerce, are “taking note” of the county’s successes.
“And I think that will be beneficial as they work with prospects,” McLean said. “They see that we are active and investing in ourselves. They know that they can come here with a prospect and have a good experience.”
She said her office has also been active and successful in obtaining 15 grants totaling $10.5 million from various sources, most tied to specific industrial projects. In addition, McLean said, the county completed an “industrial product evaluation” which identified 13 specific projects to improve its industrial sites and parks and led to council approving an up to $17.2 million bond issue in late October 2015.
“The bonds have been issued, the funds obtained, and we are working on the plan right now. The first project identified in that plan, was the Steeplechase Road extension, and that has begun. The design of the road is expected to be complete this week. Our engineering firm tells us that in spring, they will put out to bid and will take about three months for completion, depending on the weather,” McLean said.
She said the county is also putting out a request for quotation to two or three engineering firms to assist in implementing the remainder of the projects.
McLean touched on workforce development as another focus for 2015, noting the county’s naming as a S.C. Work Ready community. She also mentioned an industry showcase where the county and the Kershaw County School District had high school counselors meet with industry representatives to learn what the industries do and manufacture and the skills they need from the workforce.
“As a result of that event, we are hosting the school counselors Thursday on an industry tour,” which McLean said was set to include Suonimen and Haier.
Looking ahead, McLean also mentioned her office will be unveiling a new, updated website within the next two weeks.
In other business, council voted unanimously to:
• approve first reading of an ordinance rezoning a piece of property in Cassatt to general development upon which may potentially see the construction of a new Family Dollar store;
• reappoint Stacie McGee to the Kershaw County Housing Authority;
• appoint David L. Brown and Paul N. Holder to the Kershaw County Board of Zoning Appeals; and
• approve the $36,038 purchase of a ditcher side-arm attachment to assist the county in rebuilding damaged ditches.
During his administrative briefing, Vic Carpenter noted today’s groundbreaking, set for just before 11 a.m., for Central Carolina Technical College’s I-20 Exit 98 campus. Carpenter also discussed Saturday’s county council retreat at Shaw Air Force Base, a proposed calendar to work on the Fiscal Year 2017 budget, and $33,000 in U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursements connected to October 2015’s flood.
Carpenter also reminded council of the need to start the process of replacing or reappointing five members to the county’s accommodations tax committee.
Council then went into executive session to receive a legal briefing concerning a sewer permitting issue involving industrial users of the county’s wastewater treatment plant, including Weylchem in Elgin. Council took no action when it returned to open session other than to adjourn.