Originally created 07/06/97

County priming economy



EDGEFIELD, S.C. -- The push for economic development is on in Edgefield County.

Although the area is experiencing an unemployment rate lower than the state average, Edgefield County officials say the largely rural county needs a broader base to share the tax burden.

For the first time in recent memory, Edgefield County Council is hiring its own economic specialist, a developer to work under Fred Humes at the Aiken-Edgefield Economic Development Partnership. The developer, who hasn't been chosen yet, will devote full attention to Edgefield County.

Last week, the council began the process of appointing its own Economic Development Committee to work with the developer and Mr. Humes to recruit both business and industry.

"It's the biggest push we've ever had for economic development," said Monroe Kneece, council chairman. "The county needs growth and we need a broader tax base. Every bit of capital investment we can get will help to lower taxes for our citizens."

RestMaster Bedding Co. of Augusta has begun building a 44,000-square-foot facility off Sweetwater Road next to the Edgefield Recycling Center. Representing a $2.5 million investment, RestMaster is expected to employ 40 workers, most of whom will probably commute from Georgia.

"The company moved from Augusta because company officials like South Carolina's job training programs and got the cooperation it needed from local officials," said Wayne Adams, Edgefield County administrator.

At its regular meeting last week, council members approved a $4 million bond issue for Bondex, a British company that manufactures parts for lasers and copiers. Located on U.S. Highway 25 next to Menardi Criswell, Bondex has already begun construction of a 30,000-square-foot building and expects to hire a work force of 12 when it opens in the fall.

More significantly, council has appropriated $75,000 in the 1997-98 budget to go toward the purchase of property for an industrial park. The reserve fund for the industrial park is designed to grow each year through an annual appropriation of one mill, currently valued at $30,700, and approximately $40,000 from multicounty industrial park agreements with Aiken County each year.

These funding sources have set up a revenue stream that over a four-year period would build a $500,000 fund for property acquisition, Mr. Adams said.

"Edgefield County is staking out an aggressive position on economic development and it will pay off for homeowners and businesses in the years ahead," he said.

That suits Danny Bishop, who was elected in 1996 from the Merriwether community, which represents the county's fastest-growing district.

"We are making a statement to the people of Edgefield that we can have the services we need and the schools through industrial growth," Mr. Bishop said. "When I ran for election, I said I would work for industrial growth and with this council pulling together under Mr. Kneece, we've got a unified effort to recruit industry."