BAMBERG -- SouthernCarolina Alliance Executive Director Danny Black brought Bamberg County Council up to date on the economic development group's work to improve the quality of life in the region at council's Nov. 5 meeting.
The SCA serves Bamberg, Allendale, Barnwell, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties.
The agency had brought $160 million in private investment to the region and 604 new jobs through Oct. 19, Black reported.
"We've had 132 projects that we've worked this year, 187 properties have been shown and 58 visits have been made in the seven-county region," he said.
Black also reported on the 24-hour, freestanding emergency department that the Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg is building on 10 acres of land adjacent to Highway 70 between the cities of Denmark and Barnwell.
While construction is a little behind schedule, he said it will hopefully be "in full force ... within the first couple of months of next year."
"There's already discussions, as you know, about additional services that we can provide in that medical area. So they'll be coming up. We've very proud of that and we appreciate it," Black said.
He reported that SCA has also started an ambassador program for the region.
"We have 42 people. We're shooting for 100 folks to get involved in marketing, to talk about the good things that are happening in the region," Black said, noting that the SCA has also started its leadership class.
In the area of product development, the SCA has a training center that has been turned over to Denmark Technical College to house welding classes, with the first advanced welding class to start in January, he said.
"Denmark Tech is utilizing our equipment and the building itself at no charge, except they pay for utilities," Black said.
He said work is ongoing at the county's CrossRhodes Industrial Park.
"We have done some additional clearing because we're opening up another lot in back of the current spec building in advance. So if we needed to build another spec building, we're ready to go with that," Black said.
"The infrastructure has been extended to be able to open that up ... . It has drawn interest from Freudenberg."
He added, "We have put in dock doors, we've extended the paving, we've upgraded some of the landscaping and we put in 20,000 square feet of floor space. Freudenberg is using it today."
Black concluded his report by addressing the significance of Opportunity Zones in the SCA region.
"We have designated areas throughout the seven counties ... . It means a developer or an investor can come into an Opportunity Zone and invest their money and then get some tax shelter for a period of time. And if they invest more, they get some tax write-offs as well," he said.
"So we're getting a lot of interest in that. We're thinking that's going to be something very helpful. We're going to be cautious because we don't want to just give up all our industrial land to somebody who wants to just sit on the property," Black said.
"But it's certainly to our benefit if a developer comes in and has money to invest and will build a warehouse, manufacturing facility, etc."
In other business, County Treasurer Alice Johnson reported the county's total income in September was $867,397, with expenditures of $630,034, for a positive balance of $237,363.
County Finance Director T.M. Thomas reported the general fund had generated $1,130,955 in year-to-date revenue at the end of September. Expenditures stood at almost $1,441,258, leaving a negative balance of $310,303. He said all departments continue to operate within their budgets.
Administrator Joey Preston reported the county’s delinquent tax sale was held Nov. 5, with $160,776 collected and 106 parcels sold. Thirty out of 50 bidders who signed up to attend were on hand, he said.
Councilman Trent Kinard, a member of the Lower Savannah Council of Government’s Transportation Advisory Committee, reported on the U.S. 78 Corridor Improvement Project. He said the right-of-way phase is continuing, with contact being made with property owners.
The anticipated time for bids to go out and a contractor to be selected is the fourth quarter of 2019, Kinard said. The corridor improvements include the installation of four- to six-foot shoulders, which would accommodate cyclists, he said.
Also during the meeting, 2nd Lt. Tre Bowman of the 151st Signal Battalion of the S.C. National Guard presented County Public Information Officer Mary Tilton and County Emergency Services Director Brittany Barnwell, along with members of her staff, administrative assistant Tiffany Kemmerlin and addressing technician Taurean Washington, with certificates of appreciation for their “professionalism and their willingness to support the 151st Signal Battalion” during Hurricane Florence.
During public comments, Deanna Miller Berry, the Marine Corps Toys for Tots director, noted that volunteers are needed to help make the Christmas giving program a success for needy families in Bamberg, Barnwell, Allendale and Hampton counties.
Currently, there is a team of more than 40 volunteers from across the four-county area, she said, noting that individuals can visit online at toysfortots.org for updates.
County residents Harriet Coker and Jennifer Ahlin also spoke about the lack of a grocery store in the city of Bamberg.
“I think it’s inexcusable” for a town the size of Bamberg to not have a grocery store, Coker said, adding that she was also concerned about the county’s high taxes.
Ahlin said her taxes had gone up $400 over the past year, asking, “What do we have to show for it?”
She said it was “ridiculous” to not have a grocery store, particularly when some residents don’t have transportation to go anywhere else.
Also during the meeting, council:
- Approved the renewal of Preston’s one-year contract totaling $130,711. Anderson-based Preston Consulting LLC, which is owned and operated by Administrator Joey Preston, will provide administrative services for another year under the contract.
- Heard a report from Bamberg County Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Bell on upcoming events, including the Bamberg County Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony scheduled for 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2, at the Bamberg County Courthouse. He also reported that Cindy Hurst was named the 2018 Waddy Thompson Citizen of the Year at the chamber's annual Banquet on Nov. 1. Ricky Nimmons was named the Evelyn McMillan Chamber Volunteer of the Year, and Bell received the Emma Ruth Dowling Unity Award, it was reported.