South Carolina’s Next Big Boom

Fairfield County Economic Development
Written by Pauline Muller

When state officials earmarked space for a thoroughly studied, brand new, 12 acre industrial mega-site in Fairfield County, South Carolina, locals knew that this is where the area’s next big boom would be headed. The completion of this verdant county’s state-of-the-art facility is set to dwarf all others in the area.
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The county’s new mega-site is set to stimulate economic growth and increase manufacturing capacity – something that the county has been looking forward to for a number of years. Fairfield County is in the process of design and planning for work related to the mega-site, and has earmarked funds for a new water treatment plant.

Fairfield County is genuinely beautiful. It is dotted with tree-speckled hills that generously make way for two enormous lakes: Lake Wateree in the east and Lake Monticello in the west of the county. Thanks to these spangled waters keeping the area lush, water sports and hunting abound in the region. Of course, with its natural beauty and economic prowess comes development and plenty of opportunity. “It is beautiful out there on the water. We love going out there on the weekends to ski and enjoy nature wonderful lake living,” says Ty Davenport, Director of Fairfield County Economic Development.

This lovely place to live, with its low taxes, lures new residents from across the country. The county has worked to ensure a healthy economy and sufficient infrastructure and housing for increasing numbers of people and industry. “Fairfield County is an untapped resource that a lot of people don’t know about. We really have something good going on here. We’re poised for growth,” says Ty.

The place is great for business as it is located with easy access to all surrounding airports and seaports, making for fantastic transportation networks. Within an hours’ drive from the county seat of Winnsboro, residents have access to the Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, the fifth busiest international airport in the world as of 2017.

Downtown Charlotte and its buzz of cultural and business amenities are only an hour and twenty minutes away, making it easy to hop over for meetings and fun. Columbia is even closer and also offers a great airport, one of the best zoos in the country and a hip restaurant and entertainment district. At only forty minutes’ drive from Winnsboro, the University of South Carolina with over thirty thousand students and a reputation for academic excellence is a fantastic resource for Fairfield County residents to attend without having to relocate. Although there are many outstanding programs at USC, the University houses the #1 international business program in country.

When it comes to industry, Fairfield County is a hub of manufacturing with around thirty-five percent of its workforce based in manufacturing. Thanks to a large pool of more than 500,000 skilled workers who live within a forty-five-minute radius, labor is plentiful.

“Not only are our employees within quick range, but goods and raw materials can come in quickly, be processed, and shipped out fast. We’re only two hours and fifteen minutes from the Port of Charleston, so if you’re importing or exporting, we’re a great location,” says Ty. Its industrial properties are set along the I-77, which allows for quick shipping of manufactured goods and components.

Apart from suppliers who supply many large multinational companies, Fairfield is also home to the VC Summer nuclear facility owned by South Carolina Electricity & Gas (SCE&G). The company employs around one thousand people and is a big contributor to the county’s revenue. “There are really big opportunities here for people who want to grow their businesses. The county is on a very solid financial footing which gives us the ability to do projects, install infrastructure, and help companies that are moving in. Our workforce is also younger than the national and state average,” Ty adds.

Just like the county’s manufacturers, Fairfield County Economic Development focuses on product development and is dedicated to making Fairfield County as business-friendly as possible. As part of this effort, the county bought seven hundred acres of raw land, in 2014, to develop the Fairfield Commerce Center. Today, the Fairfield Commerce Center has all utilities in place, a new road providing access and, soon, the subdivided parcels will be pre-graded and shovel-ready. The county has performed most of the due diligence required to begin construction.

In terms of technology, Fairfield County values the quality internet and is continuously improving its capacity so its industries are well served and people can keep up to date with the latest online trends.

It is clear that Fairfield is preparing for a great future. “I think the next twenty-five years is going to be big for us,” says Ty. There are many reasons to be positive.

Part of the county’s prosperity planning is to empower its youth and it takes creating top educational infrastructure very seriously. For this reason, Fairfield County is very well integrated with its public school system, Midlands Technical College, and the University of South Carolina.

Its public school system is one of its biggest attractions. In fact, Fairfield Central High School was the first school in the state to offer a dual degree program through the local technical college. In the first year, eleven high school students graduated from Midlands Technical College with an associate’s degree, around the same time that they graduated from high school this past May.

“Midlands Technical College offers dual enrolment to high school students. Thanks to this initiative, eleven kids got their associate’s degree when they completed their high school degree, and they’re all going on to some great colleges and universities,” says Ty. The program appears to be working exceptionally well, and by next May, an estimated fifteen more students will be graduating from the program.

Since it has comparatively lower taxes, the county is especially popular with those looking to retire to a country lifestyle. The average three-bedroom house sells for around $ 50,000 less than the state median, and there is a new medical center currently under construction in Winnsboro. It is no surprise that Fairfield County is fast becoming a very desirable new residential option.

Fairfield County borders Kershaw County, which is home to the South Carolina Equine Park, the largest equine center in the region, and is also close to Aiken County which is also very popular as an equine region. “With its ideal location, Fairfield is one of the top five equestrian counties,” says Ty.

Fairfield County has become a community for Columbia’s high influx of millennials which is currently second in numbers only to Seattle. Many of these younger adults choose to live in Fairfield and commute to the adjacent county. “We see a lot of millennials interested in Fairfield County as they start having families. For us, that is really fantastic, because they are bringing their intellect, their ability to work, and their understanding of technology with them,” says Ty.

In addition, Charlotte, North Carolina, just over an hour away, has also attracted many of its millennials to consider Fairfield County. This means that while Columbia is known for its insurance industry and Charlotte for banking, Fairfield County is in the center between the two financial giants, welcoming those who work in either or even both cities while preferring a better cost of living and wholesome lifestyle.

Fairfield’s Economic Development Office is part of two regional development alliances that help market the county. The first is the Central South Carolina Alliance which is based in Columbia, and mainly markets the area’s eight central counties to companies around the world. It also belongs to the South Carolina I-77 Alliance, which represents the five counties through which the I-77 runs, known as the I-77 Corridor. This stretch starts out in Columbia, South Carolina and runs to Charlotte, North Carolina. “Together, we are promoting the county and all it has to offer – especially in terms of manufacturing and distribution,” says Ty.

According to the Economic Development Office, Fairfield County has many sites suitable for commercial, industrial, and distribution activities, making it an ideal spot for businesses. What makes it even better is the fact that while South Carolina offers significant incentives that really benefit industry. “This means that you can have a facility in Fairfield County and enjoy lower costs while still benefitting from Charlotte and Columbia’s amenities,” adds Ty.

“By tying all these assets together, we believe that we can increase opportunity in the county,” says Ty. “We also believe that the southeast is a great place to do business in, and within South Carolina, Fairfield County is a premier location because our product and our people are ready to go,” he adds.

Driven by its superb proximity to airports, and Interstate-77, this budding industrial haven has a lot to offer both new and seasoned manufacturers. With vision and drive, the leadership of Fairfield County is working to grow this beautiful county into the economic powerhouse it deserves to be.

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