Tri-County Electric Cooperative purchased property near the U.S. Highway 601 and Interstate 26 interchange for the future development of an industrial park.
"Of all the sites in South Carolina, this area was tagged as one of the prime development sites for economic development. It is a great site," Tri-County Chief Executive Officer Chad Lowder said.
"We have a pretty aggressive timeline for this park," Lowder said. "Tri-County's main economic goal is to get a major industry on this site. We have had a couple of interested parties looking into the site.”
The utility purchased about 380 acres adjacent to the interstate off of St. Matthews Road for approximately $5.5 million, according to Orangeburg County property records. The property was purchased from Bert and Thomas Gue of B&T Limited Partnership as well as the Gressette Family Partnership.
The site has a mainline Norfolk Southern railroad access, as well as easy access to the four-lane highway and interstate.
About 80 acres of the property are currently being cleared with about 50 acres being readied for industrial development.
Lowder said the readied pad could hold over 1 million square feet of development.
"We are looking to attract large users,” he said.
Lowder said the site is certified, meaning due diligence has been done to prepare it for industrial development.
Tri-County will provide power to the property through a 115-kilovolt Santee Cooper transmission line. The Orangeburg Department of Public Utilities will provide water, gas and sewer to the property.
Water, gas and sewer still need to be brought to the site, though Lowder said water and gas service should not take too long to install. He said sewer is typically the most costly and time-consuming part of the project.
He hopes sewer will be available at the site by the spring or summer of 2019.
"The commitments have been made and we are just working through the agreements right now," Lowder said. "As long as you have the planning and finances in place to get infrastructure, if there a project that landed at this site it would have at least a 12- to 18-month build-out time anyway."
The goal is to have the first company locate at the property by the end of 2019 or early 2020.
"It goes in phases," Lowder said. "It will not be a quick project."
Lowder said Santee Cooper is considering placing a solar farm on the interstate frontage part of the property, which could end up serving the industrial park and other customers.
The property was purchased by TriCo Development LLC, the co-op’s land-holding entity. South Carolina Power Team, the economic development organization serving the state’s 20 electric cooperatives, also helped fund the purchase of the property, providing a 1-to-1 match.
Though an official name for the park has not been finalized, Tri-Co Commerce Park has been suggested.
While Tri-County has helped with the development of many area industrial parks including the John Matthews Industrial Park at U.S. 301 and U.S. 176, the Jafza Magna Park in Santee and the Calhoun County Industrial Park off Interstate 26, this is the first property the co-op has purchased for its own industrial park.
"It was kind of up in the air who has service rights to the property," Lowder said. "That is really why nothing was ever done there. The utility could never really guarantee that you would get pay back.”
Two years ago, the utility signed territorial agreements allowing it to be able to receive service rights to the property.
"We were able to guarantee some type of payback if we made this investment," Lowder said.
He said it’s exciting the co-op was able to purchase its own property for industrial development.
"I think it is a testament to where the co-op is going,” he said. He hopes for other businesses to grow in the area, including restaurants and hotels.
Tri-County has been looking at the site for many years to attract more industries in order to lower residential taxes and utility rates, he said.
The utility's customer base is about 90 percent residential compared to the average utility, which has about a 50 percent to 60 percent residential, Lowder said.
"When you grow your industrial base you take some of that pressure off the residential rates,” he said.
Lowder said more users will help keep rates stable during a time when power costs everywhere are increasing.
Both Orangeburg and Calhoun counties have expressed interest in the project. The counties are seeking to share in the cost of helping to build a speculative building for the property.
The exact size and cost of the spec building has not been finalized. The counties also haven’t decided how they would split the tax revenue.
Orangeburg County Administrator Harold Young said the partnership is “win-win.”
"They provide electricity and we get additional economic development and jobs and prosperity close to our area,” he said.
Young said the two counties have also talked about working together to develop an industrial park farther up on Interstate 26 if the new one proves successful.
"Regionalism is a good thing for this area,” he said.
Calhoun County Administrator Lee Prickett described the effort as a true “multi-county industrial park” which will entail both counties receiving revenue from industries which locate in the park based on each county's contributions.
"We are trying to work out what the percentages may be," Prickett said. "We look forward to working with Orangeburg and the county. We have always had a good relationship with Orangeburg."
Orangeburg County has 14 industrial sites and eight industrial parks listed on the Orangeburg County Development Commission website. The parks range from 24 acres to 1,324 acres, each with various amenities.
Calhoun County has five industrial sites and one industrial park, according to the Central South Carolina Alliance website.