Great in 2015, better in 2016
By Glenn Buddin
Pick an economic development measurable and its likely Oconee County excelled at it in 2015.
Oconee is blessed to be experiencing record levels of its citizens working, per capita income numbers rising, and the county employment rate has dropped from 6.2 percent to 5.3 percent between October 2014 and October 2015.
Along with the improvements in the local economy, your Oconee Economic Alliance was named a Top Micropolitan Group of the Year by Site Selection Magazine. The magazine bases its analysis on four objective project criteria: jobs, capital investment, jobs per capita and investment per capita. Oconee County was actually ranked eighth out of 576 communities in the nation. For 2015, there were 426 new jobs announced, which is the third year in a row that job creation has gone up, while capital investment was $53 million, which remains a steady number over the past four years.
Breaking down those job numbers shows how diverse our economy is becoming. In April, Injection Technology Corporation (ITECH) announced a $6.03 million, 34 job expansion over the next five years at its Westminster plant. That was followed by the May announcement that ITT Corporation was investing $2.5 million into its manufacturing operations over the next five years.
BorgWarner officials said the company was adding 51 jobs via a$13.35 million investment in Seneca over the next half decade. Hartwell Village announced a $30 million investment and 300 new jobs in July for what will be the county’s first power retail shopping center. July saw more good news as full service contract manufacturer, CRM Global Manufacturing, announced it was building a new location in Seneca that will create 10 jobs.
That was then followed by US Building Innovations, Inc. (USBI), a company that specializes in the production of advanced coatings, saying in July it planned to create 31 jobs in invest $1.02 million in a new location in Newry.
Another achievement your Oconee Economic Alliance spearheaded was our county earning the “Certified Work Ready Community” designation this summer. That certification is an assurance to business and industry that Oconee County is committed to providing the highly skilled workforce required in today’s competitive economy. In order to be considered Work Ready, a county must meet the state sanctioned goals for high school graduation, soft skills development, business support and National Career Readiness certificate holders.
So what can you expect in 2016 from the Oconee Economic Alliance? To not only continue the momentum along the economic development front but work to usher in the new “Destination Oconee” program of work, while continuing to shine the spotlight on the golden corner of South Carolina. Look for more from our “Made in Oconee” campaign as we look to enrich the relationship between local manufacturers and various educational partners in our community.
As the end of 2015 draws near, we have much to be thankful for as we live in one of the most dynamic communities in South Carolina that is experiencing positive growth but let us also remain fully committed to the work needed to bring about a bright future for our community. I encourage you to support your Oconee Economic Alliance as they work to continue to make Oconee a great place to live, work, play and invest.
Glenn Buddin is CEO/CFO of Blue Ridge Bank and the chairman 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 .