NEWBERRY — Rick Farmer, director of Newberry County Economic Development, said in terms of new project activity things are a bit slow, during the Newberry County Chamber of Commerce Quarterly Breakfast.
“Not just us, it is all across the state. I’ve spoken with our peers in other counties, I attended a conference in Hilton Head a couple weeks ago and the assistant secretary of Commerce confirmed project activity is down,” he said.
When it comes to why, Farmer said he was not quite sure, but he has a theory that it may involve the recent tax cuts.
“Companies have to predict a couple years in advance their money flow and how they are going to spend, they are going to be flushed with cash, relatively speaking, toward the end of the year, because they planned on taking so many taxes, but they are going to pay less,” he said. “I think that will bode well next year, because what is a company going to do when it has excess money? Some will go back to stock holders, but most of it will be invested back into the company.”
However, despite the slow activity, Farmer said they had five new property projects since the beginning of 2018. He said he considers a project a company that is actively looking for a new site to expand, with definite plans to expand.
“What we’ve seen is food manufacturing, automotive parts, plastic manufacturing, solar projects,” he said.
Farmer also said that in Newberry County, we have a problem with product (buildings to show). However, this is a problem of success because businesses like Samsung came into Newberry last year.
“Starting in the beginning of 2017, we had four good buildings, three of the four are now gone, the only one left is the BlueWater Building, as you may know it as the old SeaPro building. It’s all we got, we had two small buildings come available, but they both have limitations,” Farmer said. “We don’t have many good buildings in Newberry County right now.”
One example of a building that was taken off the market last year is the Mid-Carolina Commerce Park Spec Building, which went to SWM. According to Farmer, the county gave the building to SWM as a part of the Samsung deal, due to the fact Samsung wanted their previous building located in the Newberry Industrial Park.
“Since we no longer have a Spec building, we are in a bit of a crunch, we are still paying on the old building and my council doesn’t want to jump out and borrow money to build another Spec Building when we are still paying on the first, and I get that, that is being fiscally responsible,” Farmer said.
Because of that, Farmer said he has been meeting with anyone who will listen, and has met with 10 companies, from developers to investors. He said these are individuals with the resources to take a chance and build Newberry County a Spec Building.
“We are working with a development company and local electrical cooperative to try and pull this off,” Farmer said.
Farmer is also working to make another site at the Mid-Carolina Commerce Park pad-ready. A pad-ready site is one that is flattened, all the vegetation is taken out and it is ready for construction, this will take three to five months off the start up time for development.
“Companies start looking at finished buildings they can buy and move into first, they can’t find that, then they look at Spec Buildings, can’t find that, then they look for pad-ready sites, can’t find that, then they look to a green site,” he said.
Making land pad-ready is a million dollar effort. County Council has borrowed about half ($470,000) and Farmer has received an AT&T grant for $70,000. He is currently working to get additional grants to complete the project.
During the Quarterly Breakfast, County Councilman Scott Cain gave a presentation on the labor force.
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.