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Orangeburg County increasing funding to help woo industries

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Orangeburg County increasing funding to help woo industries

Orangeburg County will be setting aside additional money to help attract industries.

The money will be placed into an economic development closing fund to pay for items an industry may want if it is considering locating in Orangeburg County.

The new fund will allow the county to help industrial prospects without dipping into the general fund, Orangeburg County Administrator Harold Young said.

“They (companies) are going to want something,” he said.

The recently approved ordinance will set aside money from fee-in-lieu of taxes agreements with industries. The county typically enters into such agreements with larger industries, which allow them to pay a reduced tax rate as a fee over a set amount of time.

Under the ordinance, 20 percent of a company’s fee will go into the economic development closing fund. The remaining 80 percent will be distributed to schools.

“Typically what has been happening is the county has been putting in infrastructure for a lot of these projects to basically build spec buildings and build other things to lure industry here,” Young said.

For example, when Sigmatex considered locating in the John Matthews Industrial Park, the county spent money on sewer, water, roads and fencing to help bring the company here.

“That was coming out of the general fund,” Young said. “For us to be able to go after those companies every time they need x, y, z, we either had to go to Sen. (John) Matthews, the general fund, capital improvement fund, wherever we can to pull that money to get something done.”

In many cases, the money will be used to reimburse the county for infrastructure expenses. The money can also be used to help with land purchase deals as well.

“It makes us whole for the outlays that we put out there for infrastructure,” Young said.

Young said the county has had an economic development fund in place for quite some time, but the fund has been receiving 5 percent from fees instead of 20 percent.

After conducting some research with other county administrators, Young found the majority of counties in the state use a 20 percent benchmark.

“We were doing 5 (percent) thinking we were being innovative,” he said. Aiken and Lexington are just two examples of counties which set aside 20 percent.

Young said the change will not mean schools, which have been informed of the ordinance, will receive less tax money.

He projects with more money to lure industries, there will be more fee-in-lieu of taxes money for schools.

“Schools are not losing money,” he said.

Also, he noted the ordinance applies to new fee-in-lieu of taxes agreements.

“Before we put this thing in play, we were putting up the money. But we only got 10 cents for every dollar, because most of it went to the school districts and everyone else,” he said. “All we are saying is that if you all (schools) are going to get all the money, that is fine, but at least let us recoup the money we are putting out.”

“The more 20 percent we get allows us to give you more 80 percent,” Young said, in reference to the schools. “That is what the key is.”

Young estimates the closing fund has about a couple hundred thousand dollars accumulated through the 5 percent that has been set aside for it.