EDITORIAL: That for which we are thankful.
Last Tuesday we listened to a round-table style discussion about where Laurens County is and where it wants to go. Our mind wandered a bit to a different topic - Thankfulness.
Appropriate - tomorrow is Thanksgiving. And, soon, we will turn to Black Friday, Cyber-Monday and Small Business Saturday, and all the trappings of a commercial Christmas. We won’t have time (or take the time) just to reflect on how lucky we are to live in a great nation. With luck comes our responsibilities as citizens to make our little corners of the nation the best they can be - vote, pay attention, stay involved, our nation’s history calls us to this citizens-service.
We can be thankful that most of our people are working. Laurens County’s 2.3% unemployment rate makes it the envy of many places in the United States, although it does seem lately that a rising tide is lifting all ships. With the shift of many people into manufacturing, our nation’s “service economy” faces many challenges in educating workers on the necessity for basic, friendly customer service. Still, let us be thankful for work.
We have a diverse industrial base. With mass-produced textiles gone and speciality textiles hanging on, South Carolina has had to shift its focus to automotive and tires, airplanes and technology. A vast number of people living in and commuting to Laurens County work at ZF Transmissions, for this we are thankful. Also, we have many smaller, but no less significant industries and distribution centers within our county boundaries - and we have room for more! For land, we are thankful.
Most of our citizens have homes. Family Promise is working to meet the needs of those who don’t. We need some expanded options in heating and cooling these homes, economically, so that these bills are not draining family incomes. For the expanding technology of home environments, we can be thankful.
We have few environmental problems. Some of the few we do have can be addressed through “brownfield” programs, developing ways to remediate the land under closed gas stations and auto work and salvage yards where oil and gasoline seep into the ground, and the groundwater. Our agriculture community is a great stewart of Laurens County’s natural resources. Thank goodness for farmers - everybody likes to eat!
We can be thankful that we have two, vibrant interstate highways. One, I-385, has been impacted by the up-the-road Upstate Gateway project untangling the mess of its connection with I-85. When this is finished, it will be a vital transportation link between Charlotte and Atlanta. The other, I-26, is going to be impacted in the coming year, in the other direction, by the Midlands Connector project that is going to fix the malfunction junction tangle that is I-26 -- I-20 in Columbia. Already we are seeing I-26 east detour signs around Clinton as traffic will be encouraged to use Hwy 76 to avoid potential future delays. We can be thankful that there are people who know how to design, build and maintain roads and bridges, provided they are given the proper resources.
We can be thankful that we have challenges in Laurens County. Life spins on in a boring fashion without challenges. Man does not fly, without challenges - or explore the moon, without challenges. We have the challenge of “capturing” the 22,000 people who every working day leave Laurens County to work somewhere else. They have a home here; for their own reasons they do not have a job here - and not just “any job”, but a rewarding job that fits their interest. Not everyone will find that - some go a lifetime without it. But our nation, the United States of America, at the very least, has many stories of people who have made it in spite of enormous odds. For those people, and the paths they can show others, we can be thankful.