Have we got a Story to Tell

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Have we got a Story to Tell
By Richard K. Blackwell

Have we got a story to tell about economic perseverance.

It’s been almost seven years since Oconee County purchased a 400-acre farm property with the goal of creating an industry and technology park.

It was one of those deals that could be a head scratcher to the average person because there was no immediate payoff. The build out of the Oconee Industry and Technology Park was going to take years. Oconee’s economic and business leadership was trying to tell a story that was going to take a while.

Our community has been blessed over the past five years with more than $430 million in new taxable capital investment and over 1,300 new jobs ushered in for our community on the economic development front.

We have done this through several key initiatives, but one of the main relays back to one of the goals of the Oconee Economic Alliance, which is to “develop competitive assets” so that further economic opportunities can be realized. By working on making sure we have competitive assets on the economic development front, it will continue to carry this momentum forward. A shining example of what we mean in developing an asset so it can compete and win in the game of economic development is the Oconee Industry and Technology Park.

We can now start telling that story.

In 2010, the County purchased this property and in 2013 began to turn the parcel into a competitive asset by investing $2.5 million into phase one of the park development. After construction was complete in late 2014, this park had in place a new entrance, a new sign, landscaping, two new roads and new pad-ready industrial sites with utilities in place. We then moved forward with tree harvesting from the site that yielded additional monies that was matched with a grant to put in a new entrance road in our other industrial park, the Seneca Rail Park. Fast-forward to mid-2016 and the county’s first BMW supplier, Baxter Manufacturing, said yes to locating to Oconee County. Along with this company establishing roots within the industrial park, a sister company was established at the same location, Hi Tech Mold Carolina.

As the calendar rolled forward to begin the 2017 year, the decision was made to place a unique partnership between the County, Tri-County Technical College (TCTC) and the School District of Oconee County. This partnership will result in a new educational experience focused on skill development for the ever-changing workforce needs in our market. After moving 1.1 million cubic yards of dirt at a cost of right around $3 million, a new TCTC campus is slated to open in August 2018 and followed by the School District’s new adult education facility and new high school vocational center. There is over 100 acres of ready land for more tenants. Nothing like it in the southeast of the United States.

This park now is yielding over $40 million in planned investments and plans are for over 150 jobs just amongst the early tenants. This park has gone from bringing in a little over $500 in tax revenue on an annual basis to now over $50,000. In addition, this park will help to drive our future as it puts forth a new trained workforce along with manufactured products for a global consumer base.

That’s our story.

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


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