Dirt not enough to attract industry

  • Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mark Sweeny

A site in Williamsburg County is under consideration for certification that will make it more attractive for industry. HT McFadden Industrial Park just north of Kingstree on Highway 52 was selected by Duke Energy as part of the Duke Energy Readiness Program and has received a technical review.

Mark Sweeny, senior principal, McCallum Sweeney Consulting presented the results to elected officials as well as industry, business, and economic development leaders during a July 16, meeting in Williamsburg County Council Chambers. Alliance Consulting Engineers of Columbia performed a “buildability” study of the park to determine the acreage available for development. Both consulting firms are part of the Duke Energy Readiness Program.

Williamsburg County Supervisor Stanley Pasley attended the meeting. “Anytime we can do things to help to move the process forward as far as opportunities for Williamsburg County, we’re very excited,” said Pasley. “This whole idea of certifying sites makes us prepared and ready to accommodate opportunities when they present themself.”

Duke Energy is sponsoring the Site Readiness Program with the goal to identify, improve, and increase awareness of industrial sites in the region that are best suited for new manufacturing facilities within its targeted growth areas.

Duke Energy’s Site Readiness Programs stretch across South and North Carolina, as well as Florida, Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio.

Since its inception in 2005, Duke Energy’s Site Readiness Program has identified and performed assessments on approximately 96 industrial sites, spread out over 38 different counties across the Carolinas. To qualify for the program, a site must be a legitimate industrial site (usually 75 acres or more) and Duke Energy must be able to compete for service to the site. HT McFadden Industrial Park is approximately 400 acres. If the property is determined to be a legitimate site, Duke Energy will work in conjunction with North Eastern Strategic Alliance (NESA) and the Department of Commerce to fund the certification.

In today’s economic climate, “dirt” is not enough; rather, having a property that is shovel-ready is competitive and has more appeal to an industry and manufacturing client. In order to have a site ready involves a myriad of criteria having been met, such as studies that show total amount of wetlands, floodplains, rail, electric, plus possible zoning, covenants, and restrictions. In addition, criteria include location to business services, water/sewer, telecommunications, and so on.

However, making a site attractive to a client involves the employees as well. First and foremost, nearly all-manufacturing projects include the aspect of local education and technical training. Any potential client can look up the statistics in South Carolina and quickly come to the conclusion that education is not necessarily as strong as other parts of the country. Sweeny said education is also a reflection of the well-being of the community and represents the potential future workforce. “Almost all projects include the relocation of some individuals,” said Sweeny. “That’s when local education becomes real important because the companies are trying to recruit these people to come to the site and they on an individual basis are going to go online and look at housing, safety and education statistics. And the stats for this part of the state and this county are a little daunting for people who aren’t here.”

Sweeny added that K-12 education matters but it matters more subtly in the decision. “It’s not an automatic - oh, we won’t go there.” He recommended being prepared when a company starts asking questions. “Don’t pretend those statistics don’t exist,” said Sweeny. “They’re out there and they’re going to know about them maybe before you do. What you do is talk about what you’re doing to improve that. Remember, it’s always the vision. What we’re doing concretely, not just talking.”

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