A bright and a prosperous future for Williamsburg County was rolled out in the form of a five year plan during a February 12, presentation at Santee Electric. The economic development strategic plan was presented by Dale Boyette of Boyette Strategic Advisors (BSA), an economic development consulting firm and is the culmination of input from hundreds of citizens, business/community leaders, and elected officials through a community-wide visioning session, interviews/group discussions and an online resident survey.
During his slide presentation, Boyette laid out both challenges and opportunities. The plan targets business/retail recruitment, education, promotion of Agra/Heritage tourism and encouraging entrepreneurship, to name a few. Boyette added that with re-shoring (overseas companies returning to the US), opportunities would be available. "We feel like with your location and with your sites and buildings you have in place, this is going to present some immediate opportunities for you," said Boyette. And to make the county a more attractive location for businesses as well as citizens, the plan recommends spearheading a marketing strategy. "Not just a location, but a location of choice for businesses, industries and residents," said Boyette.
Boyette pointed to a need for better relationships between cities and the county. "The cities and the county need to work better together," said Boyette. "There are some good communities in this county and you can accomplish more working together than you can working independently of each other."
Other strategies include identifying property sites for business, revitalization of downtown, and developing leadership and entrepreneurship programs. However, to reach the goals laid out in the plan will require energy, leadership and improving poor community spirit, a position Boyette highlighted. "We heard throughout our interviews that people in Williamsburg County, for some reason or another have - the word that we heard that just stuck in minds was a defeatist attitude," said Boyette. "That drives me crazy." Boyette went on to say in order for the county to be successful the people and the leadership must believe that they have the assets to be successful which posed the question that maybe we are putting the cart before the horse.
Audience member Lacarr Cooper suggested before moving forward with any plan, we must address the attitude problem. "It seems like the first thing we need to do is work on that before we can get to that," said Cooper. Steering Committee Chair Stan Williams responded, saying it has been addressed as an issue and a committee will be setup to correct it. The citizen pressed further. "What I'm saying is that that seems like the first thing we should address before we even start - our attitude in ourselves. Are we progressive enough? Are we aggressive enough to even carry this out?" Boyette said after all the research; they have concluded there is no reason for such as attitude. "We don't see why you have that attitude. There're good things here. There's good product here, there's good things to celebrate and there's good opportunities for business and industry," said Boyette adding. "And there's opportunities for improvement as there is with every place. Maybe it is one of the first things you take on."
A copy of the entire strategic plan is available for view at the Williamsburg County Development Corporation located in the former Exchange Bank on Main Street, Kingstree. A copy of the plan can be emailed upon request.