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City gets a quarter million dollar OK from county's development arm

Laurens County Development Corp board approves money for a road in the proposed industrial park


Two major infrastructure projects for Laurens County got a boost Tuesday from the county’s economic development arm.

First was board approval of a grant to facilitate a road in the new Clinton industrial park, part of the former Whitten Center property.

Second was a right-of-way to an electrical substation designed to boost the power at Hunter Industrial Park in Laurens.

The Laurens County Development Corporation’s board approved both during its regular meeting at Piedmont Tech’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing near Laurens, approving $250,000 for the industrial park road.

Clinton City Manager Tom Brooks said all environmental studies have been done for a new industrial park at the Hwy 72 - I-26 gateway into the city. Clinton has built and sold two spec buildings already at this site, and has other marketable land near these buildings. This new park, to be a 1,000-acre Palmetto site-certified industrial area, is behind a SC Department of Transportation maintenance facility at this I-26 interchange. Just up the road is “the split” where I-385 goes to Greenville and I-26 goes to Spartanburg/Asheville.

It will be the largest untapped, industry-designated piece of land between Greenville and Columbia, with less than 3-hour access to the Port of Charleston.

The City acquired the property as “surplus” from the State, now that the Whitten Center population of severely handicapped individuals has been dramatically reduced, in favor of the least-restrictive environments for special needs people to live. The former Whitten Village is a vast piece of property that Clinton seeks to develop into large-tract home sites and recreation amenities.

Brooks said the new industry property will have trails which can connect to existing trails through a large culvert under I-26.

“You can drive through there now,” he said.

Clinton has the existing Millers Fork Trail near this connection, developed by the city, the county, and Clinton Canopy.

Brooks said the city likely will not build a spec building there, at this time, but does plan to clear a building-ready pad on the site. A preliminary road has been cut, and when a permanent road is built, it will be under the control of the Clinton Economic Development Corporation.

The Clinton City Council has given 2nd and final reading to an ordinance turning over control of this property to the CEDC for marketing, and select-timber harvesting will begin soon, Brooks said. 

The CEDC has committed $1 Million to this project, and the State has committed $350,000 to preliminary industrial park development.

In addition, the LCDC board approved the Hunter Industrial Park electrical substation right-of-way for Piedmont Municipal Power Agency, which supplies the electricity re-sold by the Laurens Commission of Public Works.

At build-out, this will be a $6 Million upgrade, Laurens CPW Executive Director John Young told the board.

A 650,000 sq ft spec building is under construction in the long-standing Hunter Industrial Park, on Hwy 221 N across from the Walmart Distribution Center; it is visible from I-385.

LCDC Executive Director Jon Coleman said current development has just about tapped out all the available electricity in Hunter. “This substation is the key to the future of Hunter; they have just about maxed out on supply,” he said.

The right-of-way is on the north side of the new substation.

The LCDC board also was brought up to date on a plan to construct and staff a $50 Million Careers and Technology Center for School Districts 55 and 56; half that money is scheduled for earmarking at a future date in the state budget. Plans are still preliminary; and a site has not been finalized, but likelihood is it will be considered for Laurens County land.

Laurens County is the only Upstate county whose school districts do not have a technology center, despite the region’s fast growth in manufacturing jobs.

“We are the only county in Ten at the Top that does not have a career center,” said Dr. David O’Shields, District 56 superintendent.

Piedmont Tech President Hope Rivers said she is the product of a careers and technology education, and spoke in favor of the tech center’s development. She said PTC has money available to develop the college’s centers for advanced manufacturing in Edgefield and Saluda counties, and the Greenwood campus is across the road from those school districts’ career center.

She said even though these counties now have CAMs, “you guys had the first one,” in the building where the meeting was held. Coleman said the LCDC has several upcoming industry recruitment site visits scheduled, and all of them will visit the PTC CAM, Laurens County.

Next week, the LCDC has scheduled its investors’ golf tournament. It is planning a high school graduates’ Job Fair, and the agency has brought in three new investors, counteracting the loss of one investor.

It is monitoring the Laurens County unemployment rate, standing at 3.5% compared to the state’s overall 3%. The jobless rate is steady - it ended 2023 at 3.4% in Laurens County.

The county is coming off a record amount for investment in 2023 ($648M), and already in 2024 has had 18 Requests for Information and 7 prospect visits. He said the state’s Commerce Department recently unveiled a $5 Million Investment Strategy for the state moving forward.  

Coleman also announced that MPF Products in Gray Court is the LCDC’s selection for a Small Industry Grant award, to enhance a $1.5 Million expansion that will add 3 jobs, to a previously announced 16 jobs. A $2.5 Million expansion was announced there in September, with an Oct. 10 groundbreaking. They employ about 60 people and have a second facility in Virginia.