Jamie Gilbert knew Lancaster County was offering a unique opportunity for businesses; however, it wasn’t until Bloomberg News tabled an article the news agency was planning to do on incentives for onshore production of essential medical supplies that the uniqueness of the initiative was realized.
Lancaster County Council in March passed a resolution offering the most robust incentives in its history, and aimed at responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies that set up shop to produce life-saving medical devices and medicines will get a 10-year abatement of all property taxes, donated land within a county business park and fast-track permitting.
Gilbert, the county’s economic development director, and the Lancaster County Council knew they were at the forefront of a growing number of voices calling for the need to onshore strategically important products to the U.S. and hoped other communities throughout the nation would soon follow suit. The plan did catch the attention of a Bloomberg reporter who interviewed Gilbert but told him that without other communities taking action to encourage reshoring, the article would be probably not run. Unfortunately, Lancaster County seems to be riding solo on such incentives thus far; therefore, the article was put on hold.
Important No Matter Where It Happens
“Lancaster County believes we have a patriotic duty to address what is a national health and security issue, and, it makes good business sense. We hope businesses will take advantage of our opportunity; but regardless if it’s here or some other location within the U.S., these products need to be manufactured in America. The U.S. cannot be so susceptible to catastrophic disruptions in the global supply chain.”– Jamie Gilbert, Lancaster County SC Economic Development Director
Along with an attractive physical location – with a large labor pool and ample transportation options due to its proximity to Charlotte – Lancaster County already has some experience in hosting life sciences and related industries.
Gilbert says he and his partners are working with several prospects who may qualify for the incentive, and that despite the pandemic-induced lockdown, he and his Alliance colleagues have kept the prospecting and recruiting going across multiple verticals. (The S.C. I-77 Alliance itself has consolidated pertinent data for prospects in a new COVID-19 Impact Planning Report.)
They’ll be picking up where they left off. “January and February were our two busiest months ever in terms of project activity. Then, the coronavirus hit in March and we saw nothing until later in April. Things really started picking up in May and now I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand just waiting to get going,” Gilbert says.
Multiple Sites in Development
Lancaster County already has gotten going. Multiple sites are in various stages of preparedness, including the 88-acre Lancaster Air Rail Park (and adjacent 700 acres of former Springs Industries property), where grants are being sought to extend the park’s road to other locations within the park where water and sewer are already in place.
They’re also working on a master plan for the 483-acre Airport Industrial Park across the road from the Air Rail Park off S.C. Highway 9 as well as the redevelopment of the old Springs bleachery building on Grace Avenue in Lancaster.
Talks also are underway with developers for the construction of a spec industrial building– totaling about 100,000-200,000 square feet and the first in the county in some 20 years.
“While the rest of the world was taking a pause, around here we’ve been focusing on improving our industrial real estate product,” Gilbert says, noting that multiple job-creating investments in and around Lancaster County have already been recently announced. “We’re ready to go.”