M. Ann Broadwater has big plans in her new role as Economic Development Director for Fairfield County, and she has the connections and experience to successfully execute on her county’s ambitious goals.
Broadwater assumed the post in August with 25 years of experience that includes key development and investor relations roles statewide with the S.C. Department of Commerce and regionally with the Central South Carolina Alliance.
Broadwater says she’s excited about the potential progress she sees unfolding in Fairfield County, one of the five S.C. I-77 Corridor counties.
Here she explains:
What made taking on the role of Fairfield Economic Development Director an attractive opportunity for you?
M. Ann Broadwater: Close to both Columbia and Charlotte, Fairfield County is uniquely positioned to be a key driver in the region’s future economic growth. I’m excited to be at the forefront of helping our state move forward.
Personally, having been raised in the Columbia area, the Economic Development Director position for Fairfield County was the perfect fit that allows me to continue to utilize my specialized education, talents, and decades-long experiences to the benefit of the area I call home.
The county’s announcement says you’ll be leading a “new Economic Development Department.” Can you describe the department’s structure now and how it’s positioned to encourage future growth in Fairfield County?
M. Ann Broadwater: The Economic Development Department currently consists of myself and Zechariah Willoughby as Project Manager. I couldn’t have asked for a better teammate in Zechariah.
While he is new to the industry, his youthful exuberance and passion for the job are unparalleled. He brings energy and the ability to absorb details required to respond successfully to today’s fast-track processes.
Importantly, too, our efforts are being supported by a proactive administration and a County Council that believes in what we do.
What are your immediate and long-term goals for Fairfield County?
M. Ann Broadwater: The mission of Fairfield County Economic Development is to increase economic opportunities and enhance the quality of life for all citizens, workers, and visitors. Everything we do centers around that mission.
Long-term, our goal for the county and region is to recruit a significant anchor industry at the I-77 International Megasite. My immediate goal for Fairfield County is to be as ready as possible for that anchor industry.
We’ve upgraded the roadway infrastructure to the I-77 Megasite by expanding an existing bridge to accommodate the traffic from a large industrial user. We’re also commissioning an Interchange Justification Report to prepare for the future construction of a new interchange to serve the site. Additionally, we’re mass-grading a 26-acre building pad at the Megasite to prepare it for future development.
We’re also completing mass-grading and building a speculative building in the Fairfield Commerce Center and developing a new industrial park alongside Peach Road.
What is your overall vision for Fairfield County and what can you and your department do to meet those goals?
M. Ann Broadwater: My vision is for Fairfield County to be a great place to live, work, and play. We plan to foster and encourage responsible and sustainable development activities that promote job creation, support existing businesses, and increase and diversify the county’s tax base.
How will your experience and contacts help you meet those goals?
M. Ann Broadwater: My lifelong career in economic development includes working at the state and regional levels in the Midlands. I have firsthand knowledge of the key players and assets needed to win. Throughout my career, I’ve developed relationships with national and international consultants. I plan to leverage all of those relationships to ensure Fairfield County is always front of mind when companies are looking to build new facilities or expand their operations.
What are the county’s strengths right now in terms of attractiveness to new and expanding industries?
M. Ann Broadwater: We’re strategically located in the direct growth path of both Columbia and Charlotte, an hour from Charlotte Douglas International Airport, a half-hour from downtown Columbia, and two hours from Charleston and its major seaport.
We boast a labor force of 850,000 people in a 45-minute drive time from us, and 92% of our industrial sites are within one-day ground access of 70% of the U.S. market. With a competitive tax structure and picturesque small-town southern charm, we offer companies a low cost of operation and excellent quality of life while still having access to the benefits provided in more urban areas.
What do you see as the greatest economic development opportunities for the County, and how do you foresee you and your department leveraging those opportunities?
M. Ann Broadwater: The manufacturing landscape is changing. We see growing interest in Fairfield County by highly technical companies operating in the electric vehicle, semiconductor, and food manufacturing industries.
These companies need highly skilled workers. We plan to promote our graduating high school students as a ready, adaptable, and entrepreneurial workforce to existing and prospective companies, along with those graduating from our outstanding technical colleges and nationally ranked universities.
What do you see as the greatest economic development challenges for the county, and how do you foresee mitigating those challenges and working to turn them into opportunities?
M. Ann Broadwater: A few of the challenges the county faces are:
— Limited sewer capacity
— Available inventory of existing available industrial buildings
— A shortage of attainable entry-level housing in Fairfield County
We’re currently working to address each of these issues so we can stay competitive. Fairfield County has $47 million allocated for a new wastewater treatment plant which will significantly increase our ability to recruit industrial and residential development.
With an emphasis on product development, we’ve also got $7.7 million allocated for site preparation and construction of a 100,000-square-foot spec building in the Fairfield Commerce Center. We also just completed a 450,000-square-foot pre-graded pad there.
In addition, we are developing a new 500-acre industrial park for future use, and we’re initiating a robust residential development plan to address the shortage of available housing.
How does participation in the SC I-77 Alliance bolster your economic development efforts, and what does Fairfield County’s participation add to the whole?
M. Ann Broadwater: The Alliance gives us greater reach than what we, as an individual county, could accomplish on our own. We can take a collaborative approach to economic development through mutually beneficial marketing initiatives and shared research services.
Fairfield County is excited about the future of the I-77 International Megasite and the impact it will have on our region. Designed to accommodate a single mega-user, we believe that the success of the mega site will directly translate into success in other counties through supplier recruitment.
With all our counties interconnected by I-77 and having an overlapping labor force, when one county wins, we all win.