Towns lay ground work for economic development

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By David Meade

Local officials began laying the groundwork and working out details for an area wide economic development committee during a meeting held Tuesday evening at the Lander Memorial Library.

The Palmetto Area Economic Development Committee will be comprised of local community leaders who have offered to bring their abilities to the committee’s goal of attracting an industry or industries to the Williamston – Pelzer – West Pelzer area.

The committee includes elected officials and others and is being chaired by Williamston Councilman and business owner Dr. Mack Durham.

Durham presented information and a slide presentation on economic development and the committee’s goals to a group of about 16 people who attended the meeting.

The Palmetto Area Economic Development Committee will be under the direction of the Mayors of Williamston, Pelzer and West Pelzer area and includes eight people with a variety of backgrounds.

Committee members will represent automotive, warehouse and distribution, construction and heavy equipment, aerospace, technical training and education, alternative energy, fundraising and advanced materials and manufacturing.

The committee will bring in Anderson County and State officials and others to help promote the area as a place for industry to locate.

During the meeting, Durham explained his interest in bringing industry to the area and gave a presentation on what the committee hopes to accomplish.

Durham said when he was elected to town council, he realized that Williamston had a 15 year Long Range Comprehensive Plan but there was no short range plan.

Area businessman Jim Simpson presented basic information on the town’s comprehensive plan which his committee and the Appalachian Council of Governments helped develop for the Town of Williamston. The plan, which was revised and approved by the town about four years ago, includes an inventory of assets and a vision for the town.

To develop a short range plan, Durham and Williamston Councilman Mike Looper began working on a five year plan with the help of consultant Boyd Green. They started with informal meetings and soon realized they needed to include the broader communities of Pelzer and West Pelzer and surrounding areas.

Anderson County officials agreed to help coordinate efforts with the committee if all three mayors agreed to actively participate.

The mayors signed a Plan of Action resolution last July.

Durham said that having the mayors representing the three towns presents a unified plan for development of the surrounding area that has been defined in a specific footprint.

The Plan of Action calls for a committee to be appointed to work with the Anderson County Economic Development Office to carryout the plans for bringing economic development to the area.

“The agreement is a forging document that brought us all together and we have had tremendous support from the county,” Durham said.

Anderson County Councilwoman Cindy Wilson said there had been other efforts in the past and that this was “the most successful thus far.”

Wilson said that in the past, municipalities in her district had “cobbled together methods and funds and learned to do a lot more with a lot less.”

“There is so much potential,” she said. “With the county and state delegation all pulling together on the same team now. That is so exciting.”

County Administrator and Municipal Consultant Rusty Burns explained that together they are “developing a product to sell,” which includes existing buildings, certified sites and all infrastructure available.

“They (industry officials looking to locate) like to see that,” he said.

“Having the three communities pull together and offer something to sell will be attractive to state officials,” he said.

Burns said that national and international attention brought by the NLRB lawsuit involving the Boeing project locating in S. C. has been a benefit to the state. “We have had four new contacts in one day,” he said.

According to Burns, commercial development in Anderson County is picking up. He cited the recent expansion of Quik Trip with six new locations in the county.

Those attending the meeting were shown a slide presentation narrated by Durham, which focused on bringing industry to the community and the associated benefits.

He said the area has a lot to offer in attracting industry including water and sewer infrastructure, a great logistical location near I-85 and other main thoroughfares, rail service and 30,000 to 50,000 acres of land available for possible development.

Durham presented a list of people representing the three towns who he said had agreed to serve on the joint economic development committee. They were approved by the town mayors in attendance, Carthel Crout and Peggy Paxton, to represent the group.

Appointed committee members include Chairman Mack Durham, Warehouse and Distribution; Mike Looper, Heavy Equipment and Construction; Jim Simpson, Automotive; Blake Sanders, Alternative Energy; Dr. Wayne Fowler, Technical Training and Education; Col. Mike Creamer, Aerospace; Heather Holcombe, Fundraising and Michael Brandt, Advanced Material and Manufacturing.

“It is an exciting time for the three towns,” Mayor Crout said. “After working on this for three years, we have finally come together. The number one priority the mayors agreed on is creating jobs in the footprint of our county.”

Crout said the efforts of Boyd Greene were very instrumental in bringing the economic development plan together and that Green was “the man behind the show.”

All decisions and discussions with prospects will be brought back to the mayors for any necessary action that may be needed.

The group is planning a jobs fair and public information meeting to be held soon, officials said. More details on the Tuesday meeting will be posted soon.