County approves new industry, rehab company

Council Chair Neil Robinson listens during economic development presentation. | Michael Smith

WINNSBORO – Fairfield County kicked off 2019 by finalizing a major economic development project and leasing the rehabilitation center on the Fairfield Memorial Hospital campus.

County Council members voted unanimously Monday night on final approval of a fee-in-lieu of taxes, or FILOT, agreement for MLily, a Chinese-owned mattress company set to launch operations this year in the old Mack Truck Building.

Healthcare Co. Ltd., parent company of MLily, plans to invest $45 million in Fairfield County and is expected to create 250 jobs.

Located at 1 Guardian Way in Winnsboro, the operation will specialize in the production of memory-foam mattresses. The company also produces pillows and sofas.

Through the FILOT, new industries see their taxes drop from 10.5 percent to roughly 6 percent. Depending on the company, special source revenue credits may may also apply.

County Administrator Jason Taylor said the FILOT deals like the one reached with MLily have become commonplace as competition to land new industry has grown increasingly stiff.

“You have to compete against a number of other counties, a number of other countries,” Taylor said.

Ty Davenport, the county’s economic development director, said MLily’s economic impact on Fairfield County is significant. He estimated it will take eight to 10 months before MLily begins operation.

“Two hundred fifty jobs is a great lick for any community, and it’s a huge one for ours, so we’re very thankful for that.” Davenport said. “It’s a great way to start the year off. I think it’ll be a good place to work.”

Megasite Update

Also at Monday’s meeting, Davenport updated council members on the megasite, a 1,500-acre parcel off I-77 at Highway 34 in Ridgeway, that county leaders hope will be a hub for more industry.

Davenport said there’s been activity at the site, mainly surveying potential roads and water and sewer lines.

“Really they’re just gathering data that will be used in the design process,” he said. “No pipe is being laid and no roads are being built until we get all this information together.”

Councilman Jimmy Ray Douglas said he thinks a new sewer plant is needed to help market the mega site. He said the plant could be done in conjunction with the proposed one-cent sales tax.

“At the next meeting I’ll reveal what I’m talking about,” Douglas said.

County leases Rehab Center

In related business, the council also approved a lease agreement with Palmetto Health to operate the rehab center.

County Administrator Jason Taylor said part of the deal includes granting Palmetto Health six months of free lease. If the rehab center meets certain benchmarks, another six months of free lease would be awarded.

“We knew the rehab center that was there was the bright, shining star. We wanted to find a way to save it,” Taylor said. “In the end, we decided Palmetto was the best fit for what we were looking for.”

Ridgeway resident Randy Bright commended the county for striking a deal to save the rehab center.

“Keeping rehab within the county, believe me, it took a lot of work to make this happen. It is so beneficial,” Bright said. “It fills a need not only for residents, but also for growth.”

Gilbert on Providence Board

It was announced Monday night that County Councilman Clarence Gilbert has been appointed to the board of Providence Health.

“In our contract with Providence Health, County Council is allowed to recommend a council member to be placed on Providence Health’s board which, in turn, confirms that nomination. Gilbert will serve a two-year term.

“I appreciate the opportunity to serve on Providence’s board,” Gilbert said. “And I’m looking forward to working hard to be of service to the hospital, our new ER and the county.

The County provides $1 million a year to Providence Health’s new ER facility in Winnsboro.