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Kenneth Middleton is an advocate for Orangeburg County. He is chairman of the Orangeburg County Development Commission, the organization devoted to attracting business and industry. He is also a Realtor, and as owner of Middleton and Associates has unique perspective on just how the county is fairing in the competitive world of development.

During an interview for the special section included in today’s T&D, Top 10 Reasons To Choose Orangeburg County, Middleton expressed optimism born of his experience in both roles.

Middleton said Orangeburg is an ideal place to live for those "wanting to be a part of something that is evolving."

"For these individuals, Orangeburg County for the next few years is going to be a wonderful place to live," he said. "I think there are people who want to be a part of something."

Middleton said the Orangeburg area provides amenities people are searching for and "there are positive things happening in Orangeburg County right now."

"Generally people see that, but sometimes people from outside the area see it before we do," he said. "But I think that is a testament to what the future holds for Orangeburg."

Middleton is right. While it is not uncommon for people to be critical of what their community does and does not have, Orangeburg has a habit of beating up on itself. It is a fact of life that local leaders have sought to combat for a long time.

Which is all the more reason for locals as well as those interested in the county to pay attention to the content of today’s special section, which is sponsored by the Orangeburg County Development Commission. For far too many people, there are very positive things about our home county that are not known.

Here are some highlights:

• The county boasts a diverse industrial landscape of more than 100 firms, with manufacturers employing more than 8,200. About 23 percent of the county's population works in manufacturing.

• There are now 17 international companies representing 12 foreign countries within the county, with more than 5,000 employees, ranking in the top 10 for the state per capita.

• Over the past five years, Orangeburg County has seen $474.8 million in investments and 853 new jobs created.

• The county is a leading player in the state's agricultural sector, ranking first in total receipts for crops and livestock.

• The county is close to two major seaports, two class one rail lines in Norfolk Southern and CSX and available land that is more affordable than the Columbia or Charleston metropolitan areas.

• The Global Logistics Triangle is the name Orangeburg County uses to market the area bordered by I-26, I-95 and U.S. 301.

• Year-to-date average home price is $111,725, the lowest across the state with the exception of Cherokee County.

• Some of the lowest utility rates in the state can be found locally. Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities electricity customers pay an average of $100.50 a month based on 1,000 kilowatt hours.

• The award-winning Edisto Memorial Gardens, owned and operated by the City of Orangeburg, is a top tourist attraction. It is situated alongside the Edisto River, which is the longest blackwater river in North America.

• Lake Marion, the largest lake in the state, and Santee State Park are major tourist attractions located just 30 minutes from the City of Orangeburg. The lake covers more than 110,000 acres and is world famous for fishing.

• The micropolitan area anchored by the City of Orangeburg has a population of 70,000. Orangeburg County as a whole is home to 90,000 people.

• Two major interstate highways -- east-west I-26 and north-south I-95 -- intersect in Orangeburg County. The county is within proximity of four major interstates within 30 minutes and has the second most highway miles and fifth most interstate miles in the entire state.

• The Regional Medical Center, owned by Orangeburg and Calhoun counties, is a top health care provider for multiple counties. RMC has 120 physicians on the active medical staff representing a wide range of specialties, including arthritis and rheumatology, cardiology, behavioral health, cancer care, gastroenterology, nephrology, speech therapy, pediatrics, general surgery, orthopedics, obstetrics/gynecology, cardiopulmonary rehab and internal medicine.

• Orangeburg-based Family Health Centers Inc. is one of the state’s largest community health centers.

• Climate in Orangeburg is “humid subtropical.” The average normal temperature for Orangeburg is 64.4 degrees. The average winter day is 46. As Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce President Melinda Jackson says, "We never have a true winter."

• Orangeburg County's has more than 300 churches with a faith community that shines with a willingness to help reach people beyond the four walls of the church building.

• Four institutions of higher learning are located in the county: Clafin University, Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College, South Carolina State University and Southern Methodist College.

For a whole lot more about Orangeburg County, give the special section in today’s newspaper a closer look. Then you can help spread the word about the Top 10 Reasons To Choose Orangeburg County.

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