When I saw a sign at a business on Highway 52 North that read "For Sales" I was embarrassed. It made me wonder if something that may seem trivial to some is in fact a window into something much bigger. Why would anybody want to do business here if we can't get a simple sign right?
Images such as that sign are an unfortunate reality in the south but the truth is, it projects a subtle image of who we are. Some will argue that the misspelling of the word is no big deal but it is a big deal and in my opinion insinuates we (Williamsburg County citizens) are ignorant.
Industry is laying its lucrative footprint all around Williamsburg County, however our local government is working hard to be included in the real estate. NESA, the Northeastern Strategic Alliance is an economic development organization that serves nine counties, including Williamsburg County. The alliance works within existing industry, recruiting new companies and expanding tourism-related development. I have sat in several meetings over the past few years and know County government is actively working with NESA in developing ways to generate interest in our county as a place that will ensure profitability and success. In the meantime, there are several negotiations underway.
In addition, the Williamsburg HomeTown Chamber has engaged groups who study the area and provide insight and recommendations for ways to expand tourism.
The County, as well as the Town of Kingstree is in the midst of completing water projects and other infrastructure that is needed for industry. We also have plenty of programs provided through the Williamsburg Technical College and others who are committed in growing a strong workforce.
So where are those who stand prepared? Has industry turned a blind eye to one the state's largest counties in lieu of a railroad, interstate or more gainful incentives?
We are not alone. Every town and every city has their problems and itís not always about the location or the incentives that keep industry from knocking at one's door. Could there be an even more subtle message being broadcast throughout the business environment? What about our own self-image? When we feel good about ourselves we tend to make a positive difference in our community. There are many citizens (parents, teachers, clergy, organizations) who spend countless hours working with our youth in preparing them for the future. But many more need to step up if we are to make an economical impact that will last for generations.
I leave you with this incident at a local fast food restaurant, told to me by a friend (who will remain anonymous) and one that occurs with frequency. "I went inside and ordered Mac and cheese with my daughters meal. I watched them put Mashed potatoes in the bag and I said again Mac and cheese. She looked at me and said, "I know" and kept filling the bag. When she handed it to me I opened the bag pulled the mashed potatoes and gravy out and laid it on the counter. I said mac and cheese not mashed potatoes please. To which she replied, "You had to look, didn't you."
Working together to achieve a common goal - a County whose citizens are educated, prepared as a workforce and willing to work will ultimately draw the attention of industry. At the very least it will strike the match that lights the way.