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Happy Sesquicentennial, Oconee County

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Happy Sesquicentennial, Oconee County

By Richard K. Blackwell

In 1868, The South Carolina Constitutional Convention decided to split the Pickens District in two.

One part became Pickens County, and the other — the land west of the Keowee and Seneca rivers – became our home, Oconee County. Since then, Oconee has been a community of constant change from its birth as a flourishing agriculture hub to textiles coming and going to man-made lakes transforming our landscape to embracing modern manufacturing.

At 150 years of age, as we prepare to celebrate our Sesquicentennial, Oconee County looks fantastic for its age. Maybe the best it has looked since it was formed. That is because Oconee has not just survived, it has thrived.

This community is now nearly 77,000 strong. Unemployment rates are hovering at lows not seen since the early 2000s and more Oconee citizens are employed than ever before. Oconee is being heralded as one of the best economic development success stories of any small county in the Southeast. But our success is about more than just growth.

Oconee has become a community people choose to live in. People from all walks of life, from all over the country find their way to our area to call it home. The lakes, the farms and the jobs have been a beacon. The cities and towns that make up our county – Seneca, Walhalla, Westminster, Salem and West Union – all have carved out unique niches that make them stand apart from anywhere else in the Upstate.

As we reflect on the past and celebrate the occasion let’s remember what Ivern Ball stated – “The past should be a springboard, not a hammock.” Oconee has solid roots due to its history to continue its growth of being a place that is the envy of the Southeast. This is why the Oconee Economic Alliance uses the tag-line “Geography of Opportunity” to describe our county. It truly is just that. Regardless of how you define “quality of life,” Oconee County surpasses it.

As we move forward from the celebration, let’s remain committed to what made us great from welcoming tourists just like Russell Farm, to supporting our diversified economy blended with agribusiness, small business and modern manufacturing. At the heart of this is knowing as we age, change is constant and can be molded in a way that Oconee remains the geography of opportunity.

Happy Sesquicentennial, Oconee County, you’ve earned it.

Richard K. Blackwell is the executive director of Oconee Economic Alliance, which is a public-private nonprofit effort to accelerate job creation and capital investment, increase per capita income, diversify the local tax base and generate awareness of Oconee County as a business location. To learn more visit www.InvestOconeeSC.com.

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