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Targeted Effort Creates Jobs in South Carolina Rural Communities

Commitment to economic development in rural South Carolina communities leads to job growth.

By Katie Kuehner-Hebert on January 8, 2014

Trimaco South Carolina
South Carolina / Brian McCord

Spirit Pharmaceuticals has gone country. When the wholesaler and distributor of OTC/generic products opened a new packaging and manufacturing facility, the company opted to invest $12.2 million in a former Federal Mogul facility in Summerton, a community of about 1,000 people in Clarendon County.

The 296 jobs the project will generate are part of the 27 percent – 3,800 jobs in total – recruited to the state’s rural counties in 2012.

The force propelling this rural job infusion is a laser focus on economic development initiatives at the local and state level that ensures a supply of industrial parks and facilities available for multiple types of companies and industries.

“Orangeburg, Laurens and Hampton are good examples of counties that have done yeoman’s work when it comes to development of product,” says Manceo Nance, small business and rural development director at the South Carolina Commerce Department. “All of them have established at least one new industrial park over the last three years.”

This determined commitment to job growth in rural counties is also evident in initiatives such as the Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA), which has awarded nearly $3.8 million in grants for 14 water, sewer and drainage projects in 13 counties across the state.

Clarendon: The Good Life

Marie Land, chairman of the board of directors of Main Street Manning, is involved in the revitalization of the historic community of 5,000 residents. Ribbon-cuttings have already been held on five new retail businesses in the heart of downtown, and the housing market is on an uptick. According to Land, everyone in town wants the same thing.

“We love the fact that we are rural, with wide open spaces, so our goal is a quality environment that offers a good education that leads to good jobs,” she says.

Clarendon County recently completed installation of natural gas, and the city and county joined forces to provide water services. Another valuable asset is the Manning campus of Central Carolina Technical College in Sumter, which offers programs for workforce training as well as a business incubator.  

“Businesses considering coming to Clarendon County can locate on site with us while we train their employees,” says Dr. Tim Hardee, president of the college. “We’ve had several companies located in the incubator for six months to a year while the county was building a location for them in an industrial park.”

Central Carolina Technical College can also help train a workforce from 20 to 2,000 employees.

Positive Working Environment

Employees in rural counties such as Clarendon express contentment with their jobs and their quality of life.

Jamie Dennis, a welder for 25 years at Starflo Corp., a division of the William Powell Co. that makes industrial valves in Manning, has never worried about being laid off.

“The company is always thriving financially,” Dennis says. “They have expanded three times, which has created more job opportunities. Everybody stays because it’s a great work environment.”

Bobby McDonald, a machine operator at Trimaco, which manufactures a variety of paint sundries at the company’s plant in Manning, says, “It’s a joy to get up every morning and come here. I look forward to each day because it’s a challenge, and I am always increasing my skills. We’ve introduced new products and had an increase in employees after getting new customers.”

Both Nance and Hardee attribute the rural job boom to a realization by small communities of the critical role a skilled workforce plays in their well-being.

“We have had a change in local leadership when it comes to understanding economic development and the need to invest in their community,” Nance says.

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