BCEDC states reasons for giving $14 million to municipalities and away from County Council
The Barnwell County Economic Development Corporation/Commission ("BCEDC") has been the county's economic development entity for the past 25 years.
The BCEDC's successes over that time are well known, including expansion projects involving Crane Merchandising Systems, Dayco, NBS, Kronotex and others. Over the past decade, the BCEDC has been directly involved in announcements totaling 1,489 jobs and $232,000,000 in capital investment. To date, of those announced numbers, 481 actual jobs have already been created along with $100,000,000 in capital investment.
What is not so well known is this organization represents the citizens of Barnwell County at no cost to the taxpayers and citizens of Barnwell County. In the early 1990s, the BCEDC received $10 million over five years for the purpose of engaging in economic development activities specifically for the benefit of Barnwell County.
Since that time, the assets of the BCEDC assets have grown to an estimated $14 million. The BCEDC Board members, since the organization's inception in 1988, have been very good stewards of the funds entrusted to them, making sure these assets were used only for economic development purposes in Barnwell County.
A crossroads has arisen relating to economic development in Barnwell County. Over the past several months, a number (but not all) of the members of Barnwell County Council have been meeting privately to discuss their intentions to cause a "realignment" of the BCEDC and its assets. Ultimately, the term realignment means that the county would absorb various assets of the BCEDC into its general operating fund and rely on a six-county alliance, known as the Southern Carolina Regional Development Alliance ("SCA"), to look out for Barnwell County's future in terms of economic development and prosperity. The end result of this would be that Barnwell County would no longer have an organization whose specific mission is to promote the growth and prosperity of Barnwell County.
We have learned that various meetings among members of council and the SCA were held outside of our presence, even though these meetings related directly to the future of the BCEDC and economic development efforts in Barnwell County. In fact, the Board of Directors of the BCEDC had not even received notice of council's intentions to "realign" our economic development efforts from an organization devoted specifically to Barnwell County over to an organization whose efforts and loyalties are divided among six counties. We now understand that the Chair of Council wants the assets of the BCEDC in the hands of the county for purposes of "liquidity," while making no mention of the use of those assets for the continuation of economic development activities in Barnwell County.
This should be disconcerting to all Barnwell County citizens as it was to us, the Board of the BCEDC. The sole intended use of the $10 million in funds originally provided to the BCEDC from the Chem-Nuclear surcharge fund is specifically for economic development activities in Barnwell County. The funds were not intended as general operating funds for the county and were not intended to further the economic interests of other counties in the region.
Through due diligence and research, the Board of the BCEDC confirmed the actions that council intended to take, which we believe are not in the best interests of Barnwell County. Our county is unique and wonderful, but needs to continue to grow and develop economically. Barnwell County deserves a specific advocate to foster and create economic opportunities. The leaders of Barnwell County recognized this when the BCEDC was established.
We, as BCEDC Board members, have always acted in the best interests of the county's citizens. In order to ensure that the vital economic development efforts in Barnwell County are neither diluted nor lost altogether, we have transferred assets of the BCEDC to the municipalities of Barnwell, Blackville and Williston. We have done so in order to ensure these assets will continue to be used specifically for economic developments purposes in Barnwell County now and in the future. The mission of the BCEDC to promote growth and prosperity to our county is ongoing and not complete.
It is also a bittersweet day for us as the BCEDC has released its two employees who have dedicated a combined 25 years to helping make Barnwell County a great place to live and work.
It is, and always has been, the BCEDC's fiduciary responsibility to protect the assets entrusted to them for economic development use in Barnwell County. We, by our transfer of those assets to the municipalities in which those properties are located, have done just that. We feel strongly this is what the citizens of Barnwell County expect us to do.
Vern F. Grady, Loretta Atkinson, James W. Latham, Jeffery S. Sandifer, Billy E. Johnson, and Janet D. Muldrow,
Barnwell County Economic Development Commission
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