Chairman: Blythewood Key to Economic Development

BLYTHEWOOD – “As we move Richland County forward, Blythewood is definitely an important part of the process,” Richland County Council Chairman Torrey Rush said in a presentation to Blythewood Chamber of Commerce members at a breakfast meeting in Cobblestone Park Clubhouse Tuesday morning.

He equated that forward movement with growth and touched on the three areas he sees as most important in the county’s growth – economic development, new fiscal policies and community engagement.

Commenting on the progress the county is making with economic development, Rush said he thought it was very good considering the county only recently, in the last three or four years, designated its own department for economic development. He commended Blythewood’s town government for having the foresight to recently rezone a large parcel of land bordered by Ashley Oaks subdivision, Community Road and I-77 for an industrial park.

“We’ve got Shop Road extension for a major industrial park,” Rush said, “and now up here on this side of town, it’s tremendous to have an industrial park here as well. It’s extremely important. And just to reassure residents, today’s industry does not mean smokestacks. It’s new technology, things you wouldn’t hear or see if you didn’t go by it. Having this industry in your city will be tremendous to this region.”

Commenting further on the importance of preparing industrial sites, Rush said, “Everybody’s looking for the same industries, the BMW’s of the world, all the tire companies, the manufacturers. It’s important to have the infrastructure in place to make sure we’re competitive.”

Rush said the penny tax is a necessary step to having that infrastructure in place. He also touched on the county’s tax rate, saying it’s one of the highest in the state, which can deter economic development.

“We’re going to have to stabilize our tax rate in order to compete,” he added. He said he has some ideas that he would be putting forward later this year.

On the initial tenants in the mega development at Killian and I-77, Rush clicked off a few of the businesses that have recently opened – Applebee’s, Panda Express, McDonalds – and those in the works – more auto dealerships including BMW Columbia and McDaniels’ Porsche and Subaru.

“A Chick-fil-A is coming, more big box retailers, lots of things,” Rush said.

Rush said that one of the most important aspects of moving the county forward is to have an informed citizenry.

“The community must be engaged. It must be informed and in the know,” he said. “We saw that a couple of weeks ago when a Blythewood group showed up at a Richland County Council meeting to protest a zoning issue. It seemed like we had all of Blythewood down there,” he said with a laugh. “But that means that you care about your neighborhoods, about your community and you want to make sure we’re growing in a smart and productive way.”


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