Economic development typically refers to an area's economic progress through the adoption of new technologies and a general improvement in living standards.
In The T&D Region, 2016 saw a number of economic development efforts and activities, making economic development the area's fifth top story of 2016.
Orangeburg County's largest manufacturer, Husqvarna, announced a $29.8 million expansion in May, including the construction of a 513,000-square-foot distribution and warehouse facility.
The company, which employs about 2,300 at the height of its operations, has six production lines for the manufacture of riding lawn mowers, zero-turn lawn mowers, tillers and similar products.
The investment is on top of the company’s commitment to invest $105 million at the plant through 2024.
The expansion will be built behind the company's Old Elloree Road plant.
One Orangeburg County Initiative
In addition to Husqvarna's expansion, the county kicked off its The One Orangeburg County Initiative in January.
The initiative consists of about 100 Orangeburg County leaders, including business executives and owners, elected officials, higher education officials, K-12 education administrators, law enforcement, health care representatives, public entity partners and other organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Orangeburg Revitalization Association.
The initiative aims to identify actionable priorities, the completion of which will make a significant impact on the county by 2021.
Two noteworthy efforts arising from TOOCI include efforts to improve downtown and bring more retail to Orangeburg.
One part of this effort is to develop the 1000 block of Russell Street across from the Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities building to Broughton Street.
Under the proposal, the county's new library would be built on the block.
Plans also include retail, dining and green space as well as an outdoor amphitheater.
There are also efforts to include the gateways, or city entryways. A beautification project is already in the works at the Exit 145 interchange on Interstate 26.
The City of Orangeburg also has plans to improve Railroad Corner. The U.S. 601 and S.C. 33 intersection is often cited by city leaders as a gateway into Orangeburg.
In April, the city spent about $20,000 for consultants Fred Johnson and Jim Pagett to help the city through the process of developing the plan’s first phase, which includes appraisals and environmental assessments.
The city is currently in negotiations with owners for property on Treadwell, Russell and Boulevard streets. Orangeburg officials hope to be able to obtain at least two dozen of the properties.
Several property appraisals have been done, and officials say property owner cooperation has been good.
The city is envisioning mom-and-pop stores, restaurants, a sports bar and bicycle trails for the area.
About $3 million has been set aside in the fourth phase of the capital projects sales tax for the development and upgrade of the corner.
The city celebrated the grand opening of the new Orangeburg City Gym on Broughton Street in March.
Approximately $5 million from the 1 percent capital projects sales tax was used to build the gym.
The gym is used for basketball and volleyball leagues for both youth and adults. The facility can also be used for exercise classes.
The gym consists of two high school regulation basketball courts.
The facility can also be used for meetings.
Ferse's survives as restaurant
Palmetto Star Barbecue inside Ferse’s 5&10 held a soft grand opening in November.
The 4,500-square-foot, family-style restaurant serves Texas-inspired, wood-smoked barbecue, including brisket, ribs, pork butt and spare ribs.
A quarter of the building’s front remains retail, housing specialty items such as rice cookers, rugs, sewing supplies and mason jars. Another quarter of the building houses a fresh market, where farmers can sell fruits and vegetables.
The 109-year-old store on Russell Street had struggled to stay afloat because of competition from local discount and drug stores.
Other development announcements
- China-based Labon, a technical fiber and textile manufacturer, established its first U.S. operation here in December.
The company is expected to invest $3.1 million and create 23 new jobs.
Labon purchased a 15,700-square-foot facility at 122 Industrial Boulevard, which will utilize raw materials to produce fibers.
The company will be operational by January 2017, and is the 14th international company to locate in the county.
- IPS Packaging, a wholesale packaging distributor headquartered in Fountain Inn, announced it would build a new distribution center here. In addition to a $3.5 million investment, IPS will also bring five new jobs to the community.
The new distribution center is located in the Orangeburg County/City Industrial Park on U.S. 301 near I -26.
- The Price Companies Inc., headquartered in Monticello, Arkansas, announced plans to build a new wood chip processing facility near Holly Hill.
The new wood chip processing mill, named Carolina Chips, will produce wood chips and processed bark for the KapStone paper mill in North Charleston.
It is anticipated that once the facility is completed, the plant will employ a minimum of 15 people and have a minimum capital investment of approximately $32 million over the next five years. This investment will cover all personnel, buildings and equipment to be installed at the new chip mill.
The chip mill and wood storage yard are scheduled for completion and start-up in the first half of 2017.
- Plant modifications were underway at GKN Aerospace's second Orangeburg County facility as the company prepared for the manufacture of inlet lip skins for the Boeing 737 MAX and 777X.
GKN raised the roof of its second plant in the Orangeburg County/City Industrial Park to about 56 feet and dug pits about 20 feet deep.
The company announced in June 2015 that it would invest more than $20 million in a new manufacturing facility adjacent to its existing plant at the intersection of U.S. 301 and I-26.
First-part production from the building began in the summer.
- Southeast Frozen Foods’ leaders celebrated the expansion of the company’s Calhoun County operations in May with an ice-breaking ceremony.
The food distributor and cold storage provider is undertaking a $6 million, 35,000-square-foot expansion at its facility near Gaston. Its investment is expected to generate about 30 jobs over two to three years.
- Black Water Barrels LLC held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in September for its new manufacturing facility in Bamberg.
The company manufactures white oak barrels for the growing bourbon industry. The company has invested $3.6 million and will create 57 jobs over the next five years.
Black Water Barrels LLC upfitted the former Zeigler automotive dealership located at 3941 Main Hwy. The company purchased the 9,000-square-foot facility, and has added an additional 11,000 square feet to the building.
- The year was also the year of the solar farm.
Four solar farms are considering investing about $184.6 million in Orangeburg County. The farms went through the early stages of approval by Orangeburg County Council. None of the farms promises new jobs.
- Work continued on the upgrade of the Interstate 95 and U.S. 301 interchange.
The project was to be largely completed and open to traffic by the end of January 2017.
It includes the development of a full-access interchange where I-95 and U.S. 301 meet. Officials hope it will open the area to more economic development.
The project is to be fully completed in June 2017.
Looking ahead to 2017
Orangeburg County Development Commission Executive Director Gregg Robinson expressed his optimism that 2017 will be a positive one for economic development.
"The year will offer a solid stock market and a new transition at the federal-level leadership," Robinson said. "The market is doing much better, and the private sector is more willing to invest in manufacturing and infrastructure. Unemployment is at an all-time low. All signs are favorable."
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