BAMBERG – Southern Carolina Alliance says it’s working to spread the word about Bamberg County’s benefits after an industry lost interest in it following “not so totally accurate” news stories.
"Most people who live in Bamberg County do believe in Bamberg County. We have a lot of things going for us. We have quite a few manufacturers that succeed here. I've reared my children here. It's been a great home, and it's a great place to live, work and do business,” SCA Vice President of Marketing Kay Maxwell said.
“We want to make sure we're getting that message through not only to the companies we're trying to recruit, but to people who live here.”
SCA unveiled its new marketing plans during Monday night’s Bamberg County Council meeting. Council gave SCA permission to move forward with the marketing campaign.
The plans are needed as the county experiences “extraordinary challenges” that will take a united community to overcome, Maxwell said.
"As a resident of Bamberg County ... we all appreciate the joy and benefits of living in a rural county. We all understand the challenges of living in small communities. However, in the last 18 months, Bamberg County has experienced some extraordinary challenges,” Maxwell said.
“Not only did we have a fire in downtown Bamberg that destroyed quite a few buildings in our downtown area, the bankruptcy of two national retail chains resulted in us losing a grocery store and another company closing, and then also there was some miscommunication and downright exploitation of the water system in Denmark,” she said.
Maxwell added, “With growing frustrations on some of these issues as well as other local issues, we have seen some increased activity on social media as well as in the press. Unfortunately, this publicity does affect what we do in trying to bring industry to our area.
“Our job at Southern Carolina Alliance is to really extol the assets and the value and the virtues that Bamberg County holds and why so many industries do succeed here. Unfortunately, with all the noise, sometimes it's hard for us to get the message through.”
She said the SCA felt that it needed to assist in promoting the positive things Bamberg County has to offer, particularly in light of the county’s apparent loss of a food processing company that looked at the possibility of locating at a Bamberg site.
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“While we had a national network and even some statewide newspapers writing some not so totally accurate stories about Bamberg County, we were working with a very large food processing company that was bringing 1,400 jobs to this county.
“They were looking at a Bamberg County as their top site. In fact, we were so close that the letter of commitment was being drafted for that company to come. And then those issues regarding the community ended up in the national press, the company went silent on us and we lost the project. And, to my knowledge, we have not heard back from that company since then,” Maxwell said.
The SCA has since worked with the S.C. Department of Commerce on a marketing campaign. The effort includes Aiken-based Alison South Marketing Group as well as leaders from throughout the county.
An internal campaign will be directed at the community’s own stakeholders, Maxwell said, helping them to promote the county within their own communities.
“They've also developed an external marketing campaign, meaning a brand that we can share with companies that we're trying to recruit,” she said.
Ron Turner, vice president of branding at Alison South, said the marketing campaign will promote the best of what the county offers, including its potential for agricultural tourism growth.
It is a collective effort that will involve everyone, including each of the county’s municipalities, Turner said.
“We want to see people come together and be Bamberg. … There are a lot of things to be proud of in the area,” he said, including in the areas of business and recreation.
“We started gathering information from a select group of people, a very wide demographic from throughout the county. We take in consideration location, economics and everything else. We pull that together and really come up with a blueprint, a map, to kind of work through the entire brand itself.
“At that point, what we started doing is we look at a local, a regional and a national level to see what's been done in and around the area, to see what the competing counties are doing, and also on the state and national level to see what other marketing companies are doing as far as advertising in those areas,” Turner said.
SCA Executive Director Danny Black said the county must work together better to solve its issues.
“We would love to see something like this instituted in Bamberg as a start. We want to carry it on to other areas as well. … This is not costing the county any money. It’s a project we’ve taken as a region, and this is the first step in that project. … We are going to the towns, meeting with the mayors and so forth” to make sure the project is effectively communicated, Black said.
Maxwell said while she realizes a marketing campaign doesn’t resolve all of a community’s challenges, “We’re doing our part in helping Bamberg County while they are working on resolving some of their challenges and we are excited.”