EDITORIAL: Cooperation Needed
If South Carolina Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt is really interested in assisting rural areas with economic development, he can start right outside of Clinton.
He can ask Gov. Henry McMaster to read a letter from Clinton and act on its request. He can facilitate the move of the South Carolina Department of Transportation maintenance shed away from Hwy 72 and I-26, and give the property to Clinton.
If he did that, he would make good on a recent statement that the state is facilitating development in all corners of South Carolina.
If he did that, he would make a good faith effort in helping places like Laurens County, left behind as progress booms in Berkeley, Dorchester, Chester-York, and Spartanburg counties. The rich get richer - the poor stay behind. South Carolina’s legacy.
The city wants this linchpin piece of property to round out an industrial park. And there is precedent - you don’t see a “shed” at the intersection of Hwy 9 and I-77, the state’s newest “boom town”. The city has control of 50 acres on one side of the Hwy 72 shed and will get control of 300 more acres on the east side of the shed, the letter to McMaster says.
Negotiations with the DOT itself have been pointless; nobody wants to give up their “turf”.
We do have concerns. If the city develops all this land into an industrial park - and owns it - all that land comes off the Laurens County tax books. Take all the other government-owned land - industrial and otherwise - in Laurens County, and you can see why county tax bills are high. Add to that agricultural land, taxed at a lower rate, and homestead exemptions for older folks, and you can see why the small number of second homes on Lake Greenwood - taxed at a higher rate - just can’t keep up with the “cheap tax” land.
Of course, if we developed the land and then SOLD it, that would be a different matter. Companies would at least pay some, through their fees in lieu of taxes. Industries don’t pay property tax, like you and me; if they did we probably wouldn’t have a plant anywhere in the state. And, of course, industries drive “progress” - we’re paying for new interchanges on I-26 near Charleston to accommodate Volvo. Those interchanges are on rural land, so Secretary Hitt could make the argument that development is coming to “rural South Carolina”. But it’s just not so - the urban hubs drive the wheel of progress, the rest of us are just along for the ride.
Apparently, if the shed wasn’t there it’s progress that could happen right now. Last Monday, Mayor Bob McLean said the city knows people who will “buy the property today” and build “something major” on it. City Manager Bill Ed Cannon said the DOT maintenance shed is “the biggest detriment to (the city’s) economic development and to hospitality opportunities.” We don’t need any more convenience stores, that’s for sure, but we certainly could use more motels - especially, motels forming a gateway to industrial and technological companies located in a park-like setting. We always look west to Greenville but, at least for now, one of our biggest opportunities is to the east, Samsung near Newberry.
At least the state could do something constructive - and get out of our way.