The addition of a new member county and development of an industrial megasite were highlighted at the South Carolina I-77 Alliance’s Fourth Annual Economic Development Summit held Thursday, August 16, at the Gateway Conference Center in Richburg, SC.
“Lancaster County’s decision to join us this year changes our geography but doesn’t change who we are. It adds to who we are,” said Rich Fletcher, President & CEO of the Alliance, which now comprises York, Chester, Lancaster, Fairfield and Richland counties. “We continue to focus on lead generation and branding, marketing our corridor as an outstanding location to locate new industries.”
Fletcher told attendees at the annual conference that the Alliance and its partners – state and local economic development officials and specialists, attorneys and business people – are now targeting 150 to 180 companies to visit during 25 to 30 missions a year around the world.
They also work close to home, he added, pointing to a recent meeting the Alliance and the Department of Commerce held in Charlotte with business representatives from across Europe, India, China, Japan and South Korea.
Fletcher said the presence of the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport as the world’s seventh-busiest in terms of takeoffs and landings is one of the I-77 corridor’s strongest industrial attraction assets, as is Columbia Metropolitan Airport’s large UPS hub. The corridor also benefits from having two large, separate workforces of about 1.25 million people each.
There’s a growing diversity of basic and advanced manufacturing and service operations in the corridor, Fletcher added, anchored by Charlotte’s long history as a financial services center and Columbia’s position as an insurance services and technology hub.
“There are very few areas anywhere in the Southeast like ours,” Fletcher told the conference attendees. The Alliance is continuing to build on its ability to get that message across in detail through its growing website, which includes extensive economic and demographic data and available sites.
The Alliance also plans to soon launch a new website devoted to marketing the I-77 International Megasite of roughly 1,200 acres near I-77 and Highway 34 in Fairfield County, with the goal of selling it to a single occupant who could generate a minimum of 2,000 jobs onsite and a spin-off effect from Fort Mill to Columbia.
Jeanette Goldsmith of Columbia-based Strategic Development Group analyzed several potential megasites in South Carolina, including the I-77 International Megasite. In her keynote address at the Thursday conference, Goldsmith said that while “successful economic development primarily should be about hitting singles and doubles, you need to be ready to hit a home run.”
Goldsmith said competition for such sites is intense and that prospective buyers want “the path of least resistance,” including business-friendly taxes, fees and relationships with local governments, as well as simply a feeling that the company’s people will be welcomed as part of the community.
The South Carolina I-77 Alliance is a nonprofit economic development organization that positions Chester, Fairfield, Lancaster, Richland and York counties as a world-class business location to attract investment and high-quality jobs.