Officials taking steps for economic development in area

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By David Meade

Local and state officials joined members of the Palmetto Area Economic Development Committee (PAEDC) for a conference Friday to discuss marketing and promoting the area to business and industry. A varied group of people representing the community heard from officials involved in state and local economic development.

Representatives of the State Department of Commerce, Anderson County Economic Development and local educators shared information about programs and steps related to being  successful in recruiting business, industry and jobs to the area.

PAEDC chairman Dr. Mack Durham narrated a slide presentation about economic development for the area which included shared goals of the committee, what economic development can do for the area and the process of attracting industry.

Small Business and Rural Development Senior Manager Ed West and Global Marketing representative Jennifer Noel shared information about what businesses are looking for when they are considering locating in an area.

Noel said when thinking about who or where to recruit, the committee should include areas of manufacturing, growing existing businesses, entrepreneurs, tourism and agriculture.

Site selection is extremely competitive and businesses often hire experts to help qualify areas, Noel said. Locations are then narrowed to two or three at which point negotiations begin and often incentives become a factor.

She described it as a process of elimination, which could start with a company looking at the southeastern US and eventually narrowing to one site.

The State Commerce Department works with eight county alliances across the state which help promote and market their region to prospects.

Factors businesses consider in locating to a specific area include highway access, labor costs, tax exemptions, construction costs, state and local incentives, corporate tax, skilled labor, in and out bound shipping costs, energy availability, building availability and low union profile.

West suggested the group fine tune information about the area into facts and figures which can be used to encourage a business to locate in the area.

“Find two things that make you special,” he said. “And look at what you can do to enhance Anderson County’s ability.”

According to the state commerce officials, having a certified site is a priority. Eighty three percent of the businesses they deal with are looking for a building.

Building requirements are often a 20,000 – 49,999 sq. ft. or a 50,000 – 99,999 sq. ft. building. Ceiling height requirements are 24 to 30 ft.

According to Noel, 13 sites meet these qualifications in the state, with two located in the upstate.

They also want to be within one to two miles of the interstate.

Noel said a growing trend is to look for places where businesses can grow talent. Quality of life is also a major factor for consideration.

West said the area is positioned to bring in a great workforce within a 40 minute drive time.

He said the committee should designate sites and work to make the community a better place visibly.

He also suggested that in the recruiting process, consider small businesses such as mom and pop and retail type businesses, an area Sen. Billy O’Dell agreed with.

O’Dell said the area is situated to attract spin-off type industries.

He said many of the old mill towns are using ISTEA money to address downtown appearances.

Williamston, Pelzer and West Pelzer have all participated in streetscape projects funded through the SC Department of Transportation grants.

West suggested the committee think about workforce, skill levels and education and make that information available to Anderson County Economic Development.

“What can your people do to improve skill levels and encourage programming for the local community,” he asked.

West said the committee needs to identify certified sites.

“They (business) want to mitigate risk. They want sites to be under control with some research done such as boundaries and surveys and geological work,” he said.

Free land is also an incentive more are requesting.

Noel said that what a particular company is looking for varies widely.

They suggested the committee identify two things that they feel are the biggest assets of the area and make that a part of their marketing process.

The meeting was held today (Friday) Feb. 24 at the administrative offices of School District One.