October 28, 2017
Before a region can host new economic development, it has to be prepared to bring investments in, through a trained workforce and the availability of ready-made sites.
And Greenwood County’s work on these behind-the-scenes priorities has positioned it as a state and national leader.
On Wednesday, Duke Energy announced that Greenwood County’s north industrial park is one of three South Carolina properties selected for the company’s Site Readiness Program, which qualifies them for a $10,000 matching grant from the utility to help attract projects.
That follows a September designation by Site Selection Magazine that named Greenwood as the country’s second-leading county for attainment of the National Career Readiness Certificate.
“We are laser-focused on the development of a ready workforce, as well as increased product offerings,” Greenwood Partnership Alliance CEO Heather Simmons Jones said. “Companies need sites and buildings that match or have the flexibility to quickly match their needs, and what good is a facility if you can’t fill it with qualified workers?”
With initiatives such as The Greenwood Promise and the pending construction of an advanced manufacturing training center on the campus of Piedmont Technical College, Greenwood’s development of career readiness programs helped vault its reputation. Oconee County was ranked 6th by Site Selection Magazine for workforce certificates.
The ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate is an assessment-based credential earned through scores on three ACT WorkKeys assessments – applied math, graphic literacy, and workplace documents – that measure foundational employability skills. In the 2014-15 school year, South Carolina introduced a statewide initiative to require all 11th-grade students to complete the WorkKeys assessment.
“Greenwood and Oconee counties are showcasing the Upstate’s talent pool and the payoff of collaborative efforts to connect today’s students to tomorrow’s career opportunities, in both urban and rural communities,” said John Lummus, president and CEO of the Upstate SC Alliance, said in a statement. “I’m proud that not one, but two, Upstate communities stand out among the nation.”
In August, County Council voted to spend $1.1 million for construction and engineering of an access road, sewer lines and signage leading to the North Greenwood Industrial Park on 31.7 acres between Hodges and Ware Shoals.
The funds are coming from three places: $600,000 from a state Department of Commerce grant, $125,000 from Duke Energy’s site readiness program and $395,000 from the county.
Councilman Theo Lane, who is also Duke Energy’s district manager for government and community relations, has been a proponent of the business park. He said in August that early action on site preparation and land clearing sends a strong message to potential investors.
“I fully believe the north industrial corridor is the best development opportunity out there for Greenwood County. In the south end, because of road access and getting product to customers, we’re probably not going to be able to put any significant industry there,” he said. “When they (potential businesses) see it graded and grubbed and all the work going in with a marquee out front, that says, ‘this isn’t a pipe dream, it’s something that’s really going to happen.’”
From June 2014 to June 2016, at least 20 projects were lost for Greenwood because of lack available buildings and 19 requests for information were never submitted because of a dearth of building space.
On May 1, county residents began paying an additional 1 percent in local sales tax to finance $85 million in capital improvement projects after voters approved the levy in a November referendum.
The North Greenwood Industrial Park is slated to receive $8.4 million of that for development of a 31.7-acre parcel offering businesses ready-made pads. Plans also call for the construction of a spec building that can be presented to potential investors.