By Stan Welch
Pelzer and West Pelzer have been awarded a joint Hometown Economic Development grant by the Municipal Association of South Carolina. The twenty five thousand dollar grant will be used to conduct an economic impact analysis of potential businesses along the Lebby and Main Street corridors.
The two towns, due to their proximity and the inextricable nature of their business districts, elected to share the grant, and split the ten per cent match evenly, with each town paying twelve hundred fifty dollars.
West Pelzer Mayor Blake Sanders, who works as a consultant in closely related fields, said that West Pelzer will serve as the lead agency. Sanders is currently assisting the LowCountry town of Moncks Corner in conducting the same type of study there.
“The value of such a study is that it provides some real basis for decisions made by people interested in locating a business in one of the two towns. It puts some truth,some solid information into the process. For example, before the next person tries to make a go of Boots and Thelma’s restaurant, this study can help determine if that is a realistic goal or not. It will give the kind of information that a potential investor will find very helpful.”
Sanders says that if businesses try and fail repeatedly in the same small town, that town gets a reputation that can be difficult, if not impossible,to overcome. “Trial and error has been the way to build a small town shopping area in the past; but that approach can be costly, both to the business people and to the community. This study will let us take a more helpful approach to locating new businesses in our towns.”
The process can also help municipalities make decisions about locating their facilities. “For example, in West Pelzer, we have taken steps to locate our municipal center right on Main Street. Does Pelzer need to do the same? Do they need a new town hall? These are questions that the study can give insight into,” said Sanders. “It can also help them in determining what potential uses the large mill property might best be suited for.”
Sanders said that both town councils, either jointly, or separately, will conduct meetings to elicit public input into the process. He sees the cooperation between the two towns as a positive sign. “While neither town has any intention of surrendering its own unique identity, it only makes sense that we look for ways to cooperate and make the most efficient use of the taxpayers’ dollars. Duplicating efforts in two towns that are literally across the road from one another is hardly a conservative approach.”
Arnette Muldrow & Associates helped the towns draw up the grant application, and Sanders stated his preference for the same firm to oversee the study; but that is a decision that has yet to be made by the two towns. Town officials will visit the MASC later this year for instruction in the administration of the grant. The study will begin in January of 2017.
Williamston, acting alone, was also one of the eight towns in the state that received such a grant.