By Stan Welch
Tuesday night’s Anderson County Council meeting included a presentation by Councilman Francis Crowder in support of a proposed major economic development initiative.
Crowder made a visual and audio power point presentation acknowledging Anderson County’s job creation efforts during 2013, pointing out that almost nine hundred jobs resulted from the expansion of ten existing businesses, and the decision by three new companies to locate in the county.
Those jobs produced a total of almost twenty eight million dollars in annual payroll, and an increase in property tax revenues of more than a million dollars. The total capital investment in the county came to almost eighty seven million dollars.
Crowder also reported that the County is off to a good start in 2014, with four new projects already in the pipeline. Those projects will result in new payroll of $4.3 million, with a total capital investment of $37.6 million.
Crowder then changed gears, telling the Council and the audience that such success draws predators. “There are a lot of other counties that would love to have some of the cake we have made for ourselves here. The competition for jobs and investment and especially manufacturing is fierce, and we have to prepare.”
Crowder then explained that Anderson County’s success has come with a price. “We have very few, if any, available properties left. Our economic development department has been turning away inquiries because we have no inventory to offer. Manufacturing and distribution methods and technologies have changed tremendously in recent years, and most of our available vacant properties simply won’t meet the needs of most potential customers.”
After reporting on the various developments in nearby counties that make them more competitive, such as Greer’s inland state port authority rail facility, and a major 3500 acre proposed industrial park adjacent to the GSP airport, Crowder got to the point.
He suggested that the county itself should purchase land and establish its own industrial park, recommending the Belton-Honea Path area as the location. He also renewed his proposal that the County build a “spec” building to attract customers and build available inventory. He pointed out that Oconee County has built and sold two such buildings. They have also established a rail site near Seneca.
“I would like to see us build a 250,000 square foot pad, as well as a smaller 50,000 square foot one. It would of course be better if the private sector stepped up and did it, but I believe we can find a tax neutral solution, if they don’t. I do not think we can afford to stand around waiting on them for too much longer. We have built remarkable momentum in the last year or two, and it would be a shame to lose it.”
Crowder also said that state Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt had recently planted an idea with Crowder. “He was talking about an advanced manufacturing high school, where students from across the state would be prepared and counseled to consider futures in manufacturing careers. I mentioned that I thought Anderson County would be a great place for such a school. I think the Council should approach the various school districts with the idea of preparing a proposal for the General Assembly.”
Following Crowder’s presentation, the Council gave third reading approval to a set of incentives to be provided to Chomarat for the building of their third site in Anderson County. The site is in the vicinity of Exit 27.