State donates $2M for megasite infrastructure

WINNSBORO – Economic development discussions led a busy night at Monday’s Fairfield County Council meeting.

Council members voted to accept a $2 million grant for infrastructure improvements to the county’s megasite at I-77 and S.C. 34, as well as a series of ordinances that expand the boundaries of a regional industrial park.

Council members voted unanimously in favor of the measures.

Awarded by the S.C. Department of Commerce, funds from the $2 million grant will subsidize the installation of infrastructure at the megasite, an approximately 1,000-acre site the county purchased with help from the state in 2016.

Megasite on Highway 34 and I-77

The $2 million grant is through the Department of Commerce’s LocateSC program. LocateSC is on online tool that showcases prospective industrial sites, according to the commerce department’s website.

County Administrator Jason Taylor said the county has been working closely with the Department of Commerce on the megasite. He noted the county pitched in with $3 million and the state spent about $6 million to buy the mega site property.

Getting infrastructure in place is critical to drawing large industries, such as auto manufacturers, Taylor said.

“Without infrastructure, we just have a piece of raw land,” Taylor said. “This is the first step to make this a true industrial site that would attract an industry to Fairfield County.”

Ridge Fletcher with the South Carolina I-77 Alliance com mended the county for its commitment to the megasite.

“That site, while owned by Fairfield County, has the potential to benefit the entire I-77 corridor when you land the right industry,” Fletcher said. “We’re really excited about that. We’re hopeful it’ll give a good portrait of the Fairfield County megasite. It is a regional asset.”

Fletcher added that the alliance soon plans to unveil a promotional video and website that targets Fairfield County, and the megasite, in particular.

“We’ve spent upwards of six figures on this on behalf of Fairfield County and the region,” he said.

Council Chairman Billy Smith asked about the potential impact of a possible trade war triggered by newly imposed tariffs might have on luring economic development prospects.

“Is there anything you’re doing to make sure the impact on companies along the [I-77] corridor is mitigated and backup plan on where to go to next?” Smith asked.

Fletcher responded by saying it wouldn’t have much impact on domestic companies and international companies looking to establish a footprint in South Carolina. The main impact, he said, is on international companies looking to export to the U.S.

“We don’t deal with the existing business side,” Fletcher said. “With us marketing toward the domestic side, it helps balance the fear sometimes. A lot of people are fearful about what the tariffs will do. In the international marketplace, fewer companies are thinking about coming to the U.S. to export.”

Ridgeway resident Randy Bright, a frequent speaker at council meetings, said during the public comments section that he’s also impressed by the county’s commitment of infrastructure improvements.

But he also noted the county needs a long-term plan to land permanent industry.

“Residential builders won’t come here without water and sewer,” Bright said. “With industry it’s the same thing.”

Another speaker, though, was critical of economic development efforts.

Jackie Workman of Blair said she’s concerned about high unemployment and job losses associated with reactor projects shutting down at the VC Summer Nuclear Plant.

Workman also questioned salaries paid in the county economic development office versus jobs created.
In related business, council members approved third reading of an ordinance that expands the I-77 Corridor Regional Industrial Park by 10.31 acres. The properties are located in the 1000 and 1100 blocks of Shop Road, according to council documents.

Council members also approved second reading of a second ordinance to add another 5.8 acres at 3800 West Ave. in Columbia, documents state.

The companion ordinances were similar to measures already passed by Richland County Council.

A third ordinance relating to the I-77 industrial corridor authorized the execution of the amended and restated master agreement, which involves the corridor.