"Looking At" Laurens County
Prospects activity on the upswing.
The 2019 economic development year was looking dismal - for a while.
Industries looking at Laurens County have been on the up-tick lately, Laurens County Development Corporation Executive Director Jon Coleman said last Tuesday.
There have been 28 RFIs (requests for information) so far this year, compared to 35 at this time last year, he told the LCDC board. Since the last time the board met, 8 RFIs have come in about investments of more than $50 million each.
There is a spec building near Clinton that LCDC can show (although it appears to be close to selling), and a “blank slate” industrial park under development.
The Connexial Center (see spotlight page, today’s issue) has space for 2.5 million sq ft of industrial development. Right now, there are no buildings; however, Laurens Electric Cooperative intends to build one.
Connexial is the newest industrial-development area between Greenville and the I-385 - I-26 “split” near Clinton. It will be served by a 12-inch water line, and other infrastructure. LCDC and the Electric Co-op are developing Connexial with about $3 million of SC Commerce Department assistance. Bid specs for the water line will be release later this month or early August; the development agency will seek grant funds to install sewer service. A tower sign and a curved-low brick sign will be installed, Coleman said.
Landscaping will be done when the weather turns cooler. The industrial park will be marketed on social media; Coleman will fly a drone over the area each Friday with video posted to the web for these “Fly Over Fridays”.
There is a much larger project not directly connect to, but affecting the success of, The Connexial Center. Coleman said LCDC has received a 283-page report concerning traffic flow at the Hwy 14 intersection with I-385. At this intersection, ZF Transmissions is on one side of the interstate, and The Connexial Center is on the other side.
The study calls for six upgrades to this intersection, for better traffic flow and safety, with a total cost of $61 million. Of that, $52 million could be spent on a new interchange off I-385, in the development corridor between Simpsonville and Gray Court-Fountain Inn.
Coleman said the next step is submitting an application to the Federal Department of Transportation.
Coleman reported on three new industrial buildings in Laurens County: Muffin Mam, in a spec building LCDC and Laurens CPW built ($1 million Santee Cooper loan, now repaid) in Hunter Park, 100,000 sq ft; TrueCore, building constructed by the company in Hunter, 115,000 sq ft; and City of Clinton spec building in I-26 Commerce Center, 60,000 sq ft.
In other business, LCDC Assistant Executive Director Lynn Finley reported on the announced closure of Shaw Industries (formerly Anderson Hardwoods) in Clinton. It will affect 120 employees.
Finley said the company insisted that all its employees receive the unemployment benefits afforded by law. The company is allowing employees during their shifts to attend three days of job fairs on-site.
Coleman said, “We hate to lose them, but they have been good to work with.”
Finley said the first job fair involved 10 local companies, with eight more coming in for the second and third job fairs. That makes 26 companies and agencies interested in talking to the Shaw workforce about employment when the plant closes in late August, she said.
The closing announcement was made June 24, and two days later the company held its first on-site leadership meeting about the transition, Finley said. In the week after that, there were team meetings and career counselors coming on-site.
Coleman said there were no workforce or community issues leading to Shaw’s decision, based on the wood produce made at the Clinton facility. “Ultimately,” he said, “it’s just a business decision.”