By Stan Welch
Anderson County’s recent success in attracting industry and jobs were recognized Tuesday night, as the County Council passed a resolution recognizing those achievements.
Burriss Nelson, director of the economic development office, accepted the resolution and the praise on behalf of all the members of the county’s team. The County’s most recent success, the retention and expansion of the existing Michelin plant, is just the latest in a string of accomplishments.
Since the First Quality paper products production facility began construction in Anderson two years ago, a list of companies, large and small, have followed suit, with more than a billion and a half dollars in capital investment and the potential for job creation in the coming years approaching two thousand.
District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson applauded the efforts, recalling the woeful state of economic development during the period between 2004 and 2009, saying “It is a testament to the entire department that the County’s doors are open for business again.”
Wilson’s comments drew an immediate response from District Two Councilwoman Gracie Floyd, who contended that jobs were indeed being created during that period; a claim weakened by the fact that Anderson County, in 2010, wasn’t even included on the SC Department of Commerce list of counties with sites available.
Floyd seemed less impressed with all the hubbub over the recent successes than the rest of her fellow Council members. While District Five Councilman Tommy Dunn and District One Councilman Frances Crowder lauded the hard work done by Nelson and his staff, Floyd reminded Nelson that he is well paid and that he had simply been doing his job, albeit doing it well.
Council Chairman Tom Allen interjected that professional bass fishermen fish for their job, and professional golfers golf for their job. “If they catch the most pounds of fish or make a hole in one at the Masters, they win a car or a big bonus. Mr. Nelson has caught two of the biggest fish in the state in the last three years, and he’s getting a piece of paper.”
Floyd and Nelson had another fairly minor confrontation later in the meeting, as he was presenting various ordinances for providing incentives to even more companies, including the Timken Company in Honea Path, Watson Engineering, Lollis Metals, and Duke Salad Productions, the latest company to choose Anderson County to locate in.
That company is bringing a $5 million investment and 45 jobs to the old Rock Tenn site in Powdersville (see related story elsewhere in this issue of The Journal.)
Those several projects promise a total of more than 300 jobs over the next few years, and also serve to retain some jobs that were at risk of being lost.
Floyd took issue with the long standing practice of giving such projects code names while they are being negotiated and developed. “I am always asked to vote on something I don’t even know about,” said Floyd. “I don’t know what it is. It could be a chicken farm for all I know.”
Nelson explained that concerns about competitiveness are usually behind the practice, which is conducted at the request of the business. “I always give a good description of the kind of business and the nature of the investment to members of Council.”
After some sparring, Nelson asked Floyd if she had known the name of the company in question before the Tuesday meeting. She conceded that she had, making her complaint seem somewhat moot. But she rebutted, “I didn’t hear it from you, Mr. Nelson.”
Nelson replied, “No ma’am. I signed a non-disclosure agreement and I honor those.”
Also on hand Tuesday night was Hal Johnson, president and CEO of Upstate Alliance, which works with ten Upstate counties to promote and market those counties. He added his congratulations to Nelson and staff and also pointed out the contributions Councilman Crowder has made since becoming a member of the Upstate Alliance board.
He also reported on the successes of Upstate Alliance in the past year, which are also considerable. He also stressed that Upstate Alliance has been working hard to open the Chinese market and that there are several projects in the pipeline now. A representative of Upstate Alliance will travel to China on four occasions this year, spending up to a month each time, meeting with various companies.
In other business, the Council approved the expenditure of $15,500 for its half of a study to be done by the Strom Thurmond Institute on the possible benefits of consolidating various services with the city of Anderson. Councilman Dunn acknowledged that the cost was significant, but added that the potential to eliminate duplicate services could hold great promise for saving money for the taxpayers.