How we can have an ag center and a career center
A Vision for Laurens County: Agricultural and Educational
In addition to a Vision 2040 looking-forward report by the county administrator, the Laurens County Council last Tuesday heard about visionary projects related to agriculture and education.
The county currently owns land to accommodate both projects. The county has no money to build either; however, these are the kinds of projects that fit into a Capital Projects Sales Tax. It would have to receive majority approval of Laurens County voters.
“Horse people spend money,” said Annette Bodie, agriculture teacher at Clinton High School, pitching the Laurens County Agriculture Center.
She and County Recreation Director Andy Howard made the presentation. The center could be constructed on county land at Calvin Bridges Road and Torrington Road (25 acres). “There is nowhere in this county to have a horse show, or livestock show, and there is no place for people to house their animals overnight. This type of center would bring income to the county,” Bodie said.
Maintenance could be done by the Laurens County Parks and Recreation Department.
The presentation said, “Our current parks and recreation facilities cater to the youth that are involved in athletics. Facilities that offer areas for showing livestock and horses would bring in people to our county that would spend money in our county at hotels, restaurants, etc.”
Activities could include horse shows, livestock shows, training (Master Gardeners, 4H Clinics, FFA contests), hosting events such as rodeos and livestock judging contests, exhibit areas, dog shows, and Clemson Extension training areas, the presentation said. There are 11 letters of support that were presented to the Laurens County Council.
The idea of a Career Center for Laurens County comes from a desire by education and development officials to stem the tide of workers’ out-migration.
Teaching students an industrial skill in Laurens County would make them more willing to continue living in Laurens County, the argument goes.
In their presentation, District 55 Superintendent Dr. Stephen Peters and District 56 Superintendent Dr. David O’Shields said, each day, 6,982 people leave Laurens County to work in Greenville County. Just 2,241 leave Greenville to work in Laurens County. Also, 1,805 leave Laurens County to work in Greenwood, and 1,619 leave Laurens County to work in Spartanburg County. In addition to keeping local workers local, a career center could train replacement workers - 22.5% of workers in all industries are older than 55; almost 50% are over 45.
The presentation said, “We must better prepare our students for the future by making sure they are ready to enter the workforce with employability skills and credentials. Studies have shown that students having opportunities for exposure to career and technical courses are more likely to graduate from high school, find suitable employment, and earn higher wages.”
The county has land on which a Career-CATE Center could be built by the two school districts. It is on the back-side of the Professional Park (a road would be needed), between Clinton and Laurens, behind Prisma Health-Laurens County Memorial Hospital.
If the county had access to Capital Projects Sales Tax money, it could more fully develop the Professional Park, which currently houses the Higher Education Center and Laurens County Chamber of Commerce, among others.
Neighboring counties Newberry, Greenwood and Abbeville have used these tax proceeds effectively to finance “big-ticket” construction projects.