“It’s an exciting time and it’s a great day in Orangeburg County,” County Administrator Harold Young said.
Growth of the area through attracting industries and improving the overall quality of life are the goals of county administration.
Young said with the implementation of the county’s Capital Projects Sales Tax, the County Council set the county for growth in the years to come.
“County Council has put this county in a very good position by, number one, making the decision to implement the penny sales tax all these years,” he said.
The 1 percent tax added to purchases across the county began after the first project list referendum in 1998, which included $54 million toward 116 projects, was approved by more than 50 percent of voters.
The fourth penny, recently approved by voters in the November 2016 election, is projected to generate $74,261,000 toward construction of 125 county projects.
Revenue generated from the tax goes to local infrastructure projects such as town halls, road paving, installing water and sewer lines, and even the creation of recreational facilities such as the YMCA and the new Orangeburg City Gym.
“This has us prepared to take advantage of the situation that is also affecting us as well as our neighbors,” Young said.
Major projects through the years, Young noted, included the upgrades to the Interstate 95-U.S. 301 interchange near Santee.
The $41 million interchange improvement project includes the development of a full-access interchange where I-95 and U.S. 301 meet. It saw the completion of three bridges and relocation of utility lines.
The project, called one of the largest in recent S.C. Department of Transportation history, has been described by leaders as a key to boosting economic development within the Global Logistics Triangle.
The Global Logistics Triangle is the name Orangeburg County uses to market the area bordered by I-26, I-95 and U.S. 301.
The new interchange is expected to benefit plans for a 1,300-acre logistics, manufacturing and distribution park in Santee. The Jafza South Carolina project was announced in 2007, but has faced delays and changes since the worldwide recession.
“By making those improvements and the amount of money that the county had to put in to do those definitely signal that Orangeburg County is truly about economic development and business and change,” Young said.
Young said the Volvo and Boeing plants in Berkeley and Charleston counties will greatly impact the future growth of the county.
He compared Orangeburg's prospects to growth in the Rock Hill area due to a booming economy in Charlotte.
“As the effect of Volvo and Boeing, and especially Volvo sitting 12 miles away from our county, we’re starting to see the spillover effect because a lot of these communities tend to see growth as one of these major areas grow,” Young said. “We’re going to see that same phenomenon when it comes to moving from the areas that we have seen it move from.”
Young also said the county has been blessed with a strong legislative delegation.
“You put those together with a staff that’s motivated like the employees that we have in the economic development office and what you’re seeing is the collaboration,” he said.
The county has been working with different organizations such as the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Orangeburg Revitalization Association and the One Orangeburg County Initiative, along with other community agencies.
“The citizens are also buying in because they’re seeing the growth and are excited about it,” Young said. “For every new thing that happens, the citizens see firsthand that our community is changing and it’s only going to get better.”
“Everybody’s pulling together to help move the county forward now that we have the ball rolling,” he said.
In addition to ongoing revitalization efforts in downtown Orangeburg, the Town of Elloree's downtown is another success story.
Revitalization efforts began in 1996. One hundred-foot-wide Cleveland Street, which features brick crosswalks and is lined with flowering and hardwood trees, features antique shops, gift boutiques, arts and crafts shops, an auction house and restaurants in early 1900s buildings.
The award-winning Elloree Heritage Museum & Cultural Center is a must-see educational attraction. Visitors learn the rural history of South Carolina, which is recreated in an interactive setting with docents dressed in period clothing similar to that worn by farmers more than 100 years ago. The museum also features a Farm Wing and an art gallery of works by local artists.