Hey, 16 prospects - you need to come back
So far this year, the county's economic development agency has told 16 industrial prospects it doesn't have what they want. Now, what they want is located near Clinton - if LCDC can get the 16 to come back and take a second look.
"We did not have a building to show them. Now, we do, thanks to the folks in Clinton," Jon Coleman, executive director of the Laurens County Development Corporation, told the agency's board today. The spec building is in the I-26 Commerce Park - if somebody buys the building and somebody else wants to locate there, there's also a development-ready pad waiting to be built on, nearby.
At the Sept. 20 LCDC board meeting, Coleman said this is a slow time for industrial prospects looking at Laurens County. So far, in 2016, there have been 12 prospects interested in Laurens, 9 taking a look at Clinton, and 15 looking at development-rich Gray Court-Fountain Inn. Coleman said 16 more prospects said they only wanted to come if Laurens County had an open building ready to sell. A ZF Transmissions supplier bought LCDC's only spec building (at GrayCourt-Owings), and for a long time now, those prospects that want a building have been turned away.
The spec building in the I-26 Commerce Park -- on Hwy 72 at the I-26 interchange -- changes that. The City of Clinton and a private developer have partnered to attract other supporting agencies and businesses to develop the major industrial site between Simpsonville and Newberry County's "mega-site." The Clinton property is closer to the business-vibrant Upstate region than is the Newberry County site.
Coleman said Requests for Information about Laurens County stand at 32 so far in 2016 - the RFIs were at 49 for all of 2015. "It's slow," Coleman said. "This is my third presidential election here (working for LCDC), and every one, it's been the same."
Investors are taking a wait-and-see attitude until after the Nov. 8 General Election.
Laurens County - and all counties of the Upstate - are spotlighted in the most recent State of the Upstate by Greenville Business Magazine. In two weeks, Coleman will be in a delegation traveling to Canada, with the Upstate Alliance and former Ambassador David Wilkins. Coleman said LCDC is working with Laurens County Administrator Jon Caime on setting up an industries tour with Laurens County Council and LCDC board members.
So far this year, LCDC has made three industry announcements, all in the Fountain Inn area, for a $94.5 million investment and 125 new jobs - one of those saved 500 jobs in a plant that was going close. Coleman said three expansions are in the works that won't have a great impact on investment but will move the jobs-created figure. Part of the challenge is a shrinking labor pool - Laurens County's 2016 jobless rate is 5.7% - compared to 11.7% in 2009.
PREVIOUS - Clinton Economic Development (The Clinton Chronicle, June 29):
Road in I26 Commerce Park opens
700 acres as future of Clinton’s jobs
By Vic MacDonald
It took a few minutes, but they finally got the motor sounds silenced for just a little while.
Some didn’t want the silence. They would rather just “talk over it.”
“Our Mayor says, ‘That’s the sound of progress,’” Clinton City Manager Frank Stovall said, as he called together community partners for a groundbreaking.
This time - the third time Clinton has broken ground on a project in the last 90 days - it was to officially start construction on a road at the I26 Commerce Park. Monday morning, the machines quieted, the brief speeches began, and the shovels were used. Then the earth-movers roared once more.
Now, Clinton and Laurens County industry seekers have a 700-acre tract they can show as South Carolina’s newest, centrally located economic development hub.
Just a few yards away, just a few days ago the City of Clinton broke ground on a site for a 100,000 sq ft development ready pad.
An industry can buy the site right now, and erect a building to its exact specifications. Doing so will put the business on Hwy 72, east of Clinton, at the I-26 interchange of the Hampton Inn & Suites, restaurants and filling stations, just across the interstate from a new frontage road, and a mile from less-than-a-decade-old Clinton High School and five miles from Presbyterian College.
Going a few yards farther on Hwy 72, the industry site seeker comes to the I-26 Commerce Park, which when developed will be Laurens County’s only Class A certified industrial park.
“We had one,” said Jon Coleman, executive director of the Laurens County Development Corporation. “But it became a little place called ZF (Transmission Gray Court, 2,000 employees).”
“This opens 700 acres, millions of square feet of space and potentially thousands of jobs,” said John Montgomery, representing Pacolet Miliken Enterprises. “My great-great-grandfather, Mercer Silas Bailey, was one of the founding fathers of this community, so I certainly have a very strong connection to Clinton, as does Pacolet Milliken, and we will continue to make investments in this community.”
Pacolet Miliken Enterprises was founded by Roger Milliken to facilitate development of the land his companies acquired through the years. Montgomery said Milliken’s leadership and vision “make properties like this available.”
In addition to Pacolet Millken, the City of Clinton’s funding partners for this project are Clinton Newberry Natural Gas Authority. Advantage Clinton, Laurens County Development Corporation and Laurens Electric Cooperative Inc.
The supporting partners are Upstate SC Alliance, Piedmont Municipal Power Agency, SC Power Team, Santee Cooper, SC Department of Commerce and Laurens County.
The corporate partners are Thomas & Hutton (design, engineering) and Martin Brothers Construction.
“It’s people like you, who possess the vision, for what is taking place here this morning, and what will take place at this site in the coming years,” Clinton Mayor Bob McLean said. “Vision not only to see things as they are, but the vision to see what they can be.”
McLean and other city officials were part of a groundbreaking a few weeks ago for the 100,000 square foot development ready pad, now completed, on Hwy 72, and Friday’s Streetscaping Phase IV groundbreaking at the MS Bailey Municipal Center. The streetscaping will be completed in October.
“I believe that the I26, highway 72 interchange is, and will prove to be, one of Laurens County’s largest economic growth areas. The potential for this site is endless. Take a good look around you and visualize this site as it is, because in five years, it will only be a memory,” McLean said.
At the site of Monday morning’s road construction groundbreaking, the City of Clinton will prepare, by late July or August, a 150,000 square foot pad, on which a 75,000 square foot spec building is envisioned. The road will open the full 700-acre site.
Randy Garrett, representing LEC, said the company has spend about $1 million in utility tax credit dollars - authorized for use throughout SC by the General Assembly in 1996 - to make the grading happen, get the pad built and have the spec building constructed.
Collie Lehn, chairman of Advantage Clinton (formerly the Clinton Economic Development Corporation), said the project is part of Clinton’s re-branding.Speaking from a perspective of 66 years living in Clinton, Lehn noted dramatic changes to the local economy of the past 30-40 years. He said, “We’re having to reinvent ourselves. We’re having to completely replace the old industries that we had with new industry, and I think that’s going to happen. I think we’re beginning to see it. It’s happened in the upper end of Laurens County. I believe it’s going to continue coming down I-26 and up I-26, and Clinton is going to be the prosperous community it once was.”