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Company plans $3.5M investment in county

A distribution company is planning to invest about $3.5 million and create five jobs in Orangeburg County.

Orangeburg County Council approved selling 10 to 12 acres of land in the Orangeburg County/City Industrial Park to the prospect for about $150,000. The issue was discussed during a special called meeting on Tuesday.

The company, which plans to construct a 50,000-square-foot building, has expressed a desire to remain confidential for now. The county refers to it only as Project Bulldog.

The industrial park is located on U.S. Highway 301 near Interstate 26.

Orangeburg County Development Commission Executive Director Gregg Robinson said the company has been in the market and the Orangeburg site will be the company’s first permanent location.

“We are still working through all the details,” Robinson said.

The county has been working on the project for “quite some time,” he said.

“We are determining the building plans and we also have to produce a variance for the property for the new construction,” Robinson said. “The commitment of that construction will begin as soon as the ordinance is finalized.”

Robinson briefed Orangeburg County Council on industrial recruitment efforts during the meeting. In 2015, the county had 57 visits by industrial prospects. In 2014, the county had 76 visits, in 2013 it had 110 visits and in 2010 it had a ten-year high of 123 visits.

“Why are we down? The lack of product,” Robinson said. He compared available industrial buildings to cars at a dealership, saying “As we go down with product availability, it is cars on the lot. Less cars on the lot, less looks.”

Orangeburg County will have more buildings for potential industries to look at in 2016 with addition of the county’s new speculative building. Also, the former Utica Tools and Federal Mogul buildings will be coming on the market, providing space.

The number of visits is strong but it is “not as strong as it has been in the past,” he said.

“When we have more prospect visits, we have a better chance of winning,” Robinson said.

Robinson said the lower number of prospect visits is not due to a lack of effort or marketing.

“Sometimes our batting average is not the best, but we are still at bat,” he said. “They are looking at us.”

Last year, the county saw $97.7 million in investment and 164 net new jobs, Robinson said. That does not include temporary or seasonal jobs.

Councilwoman Janie Cooper Smith said she frequently hears from college students about their desire for more entertainment opportunities for Orangeburg such as a movie theater.

“There are a lot of people who want a theater,” Cooper-Smith said. “Not a week goes by that I do not hear ‘When, when, when is a theater coming to town?’”

Robinson said the Orangeburg County Development Commission would be supportive of county or city efforts to attract restaurants or movie theaters to the area, but its primary mission is to attract industrial growth.

Orangeburg County Administrator Harold Young said the county does need to improve its amenities or “it will be left behind.”

“If we don’t do something soon to get our act together, it is going to be tough to get people to stop here in Orangeburg without going on to Columbia or passing us by,” Young said. “We’ve got to do something significant to keep people in Orangeburg.”

In other matters, council agreed to begin the relocation of broadband fiber cables near the entrance of the future Western Orangeburg County Industrial Park in order to be able to build turning lanes for the park’s entrance.

The cables are currently in the South Carolina Department of Transportation right-of-way.

The cost of relocating the cables is estimated to be about $23,000, which would be the county’s responsibility to fund.

The cables will be relocated and replaced in the ground off the current right-of-way.

Council also requested research as to whether or not an encroachment or an easement procedure would be needed to relocate the fiber cables. The matter will be researched.

The 230-acre former sorghum farm is located northwest of Neeses and is adjacent to S.C. 389 and U.S. 321. About 3,000 feet of the property has S.C. 389 frontage.

Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.