Governor Comes To Greenwood
March 6, 2012
By CHRIS TRAINOR
Greenwood, SC - To the casual observer, it would appear the areas in and around Greenville, Columbia and the coastal region get the most attention when it comes to economic development in South Carolina.
However, many at the local and state levels are working to help bring development to the Palmetto State's rural areas, as well.
The governor said two of the basic rules in regard to commerce and economic development in rural South Carolina are keeping the cost of doing business low and making sure the workforce is trained for the jobs that are made available.
Many of those leaders gathered Monday at Greenwood's Sundance Gallery for the S.C. Department of Commerce Rural Summit. Gov. Nikki Haley was the summit's keynote speaker
Haley said there has been progress in rural economic development, but there is much work to be done.
"Just in this past year, we have had 37 (economic development) announcements in rural South Carolina," Haley said. "We need more. Because I know these are treasure pockets that we have throughout the state. What we have tried to do is say 'What do we need to do to get industry to come?'"
S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley applauds Monday during the awards portion of the S.C. Department of Commerce Rural Summit at Greenwood’s Sundance Gallery. (Scott J. Bryan | Index-Journal)
Haley also encouraged all of the rural leaders in attendance to return to their towns and take a ride from one end of the town to the other. She said the leaders should take a good look at the town as they ride through, taking stock of abandoned buildings, dilapidated houses, signs that need to be replaced and so on.
"That's what I need you to pay attention to," Haley said. "We always are talking about bringing industry. But, what happens when we actually drive industry through your town? Do they like what they see? Do they notice something you've never seen before? You have to almost go in and look with new eyes."
The governor talked about her impression of Greenwood as she drove into town for the Rural Summit.
"Greenwood is a beautiful town," Haley said. "What we want everyone to understand is, you are so used to seeing it every day. You see the same buildings. You see the same cars. You see the same people. But, drive it from one end to the other as if you are a CEO seeing it for the first time. You will notice things you've never seen before."
Greenwood city manager Charlie Barrineau spoke at the Rural Summit. The city manager gave a presentation called "Creating a sense of place is continuous: The Greenwood Transformation."
Barrineau talked about the ongoing revitalization of Uptown Greenwood and the effect that revitalization has had on the city.
The City Manager said he was pleased to have this year's S.C. Rural Summit in Greenwood.
"I guess I went to my first Rural Summit about seven years ago," Barrineau said. "I thought sitting there that day in North Charleston, 'There's no reason we can't have this in Greenwood.' It's interesting, all the venues we used (for this year's summit), the restaurants, the (Sundance Gallery), the (revamped) Federal Building, none of that was here seven years ago. We are going to talk about the story, how we created this sense of place where we feel like we have a reason for people to come to Greenwood.
"We always had that reason, we're now telling that story."
Also Monday, state Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers and state Department of Commerce project manager Allison Barry gave a presentation on agribusiness and its importance in South Carolina's economy.
Barry said agribusiness is described as business that deals with food, forestry, and processing.
According to figures provided by Weathers, farming and forestry constitute a $34 billion industry in South Carolina, employing nearly 200,000 people and generating $7.5 billion in labor income. The state has 12.9 million acres of forest land and 4.9 million acres of farmland.
Weathers also pointed out there are more farmers in South Carolina today than there were five years ago. The number of farmers in North Carolina and Georgia have decreased in that time period.
"Our number of registered farmers in South Carolina is on an upward trend, unlike our neighboring states," Weathers said. "We are very positive about some of our recent growth trends."
Haley said she supports the state's emphasis on growth in agribusiness. She said she thinks the industry could grow even more.
"We need to understand agriculture is our number one industry in South Carolina," the governor said.
"We want it to continue to be. What we've done is we've combined a person with agriculture in with the commerce department so that we do nothing but focus on agribusiness. It is a highly technical industry now. It is not the old school that the farmers used to do. It's very high tech."
Barrineau said agribusiness is vital to the City of Greenwood.
"It's huge," the city manager said. "Obviously, one of the largest employers in the City of Greenwood is Carolina Pride. If they are not staple of agribusiness, I can't think of one. With what we are doing with our market stands, with the success that we have had with growing our farm-to-fork type products, we see huge growth.