EDGEFIELD, S.C. - Monroe Kneece had a feeling Edgefield County would jump several rungs on the economic ladder, but the county council chairman couldn't believe his eyes when he saw how high the county had climbed.
The county created 760 jobs and garnered more than $65 million in capital investment in 2000, according to numbers released by the Economic Development Partnership, which is the industrial recruitment agency for Aiken and Edgefield counties.
Those numbers boosted the county's state ranking to second among 46 counties in per capita job creation and sixth in per capita capital investment numbers.
"We knew that 2000 had been a good year for us," Mr. Kneece said. "But we really had no idea that we had performed so well in comparison to the other 45 counties."
Officials say the county's new industrial park, its aggressive posture with respect to economic development incentives, and its strategic planning emphasis have moved Edgefield County into the top ranks.
"Success like this doesn't happen overnight, and it doesn't happen without a lot of hard work," said partnership Chairman Tim Dangerfield.
In the past several years, the county has consistently ranked in the lower third of South Carolina counties in terms of job creation and capital investment.
The number of jobs created in the county has drastically improved, from 30 jobs in 1998 to 760 last year. In that same period, capital investment created jumped from $11.2 million to $65 million.
Edgefield County's second-place ranking for job creation outdid its Neighbors. Aiken County ranks 21st in the state for per capita job creation. McCormick County ranks third, and Saluda County ranks 37th.
Aiken and McCormick counties rank slightly higher than Edgefield for per capita capital investment. Saluda County ranks 37th in that category.
In 1996, the county council set out to make Edgefield more attractive to industry. Several projects suggested in the strategic planning process, such as a zoning ordinance and an industrial park, are in place now.
Officials say those efforts have brought several new industries into the county. Recently, VF Playware - a children's clothing manufacturer - chose the county's industrial park in Trenton to build a $25 million distribution center, employing 310 people.
Nearby, Components Manufacturing Co., a subsidiary of Rheem, will make heating and air conditioning components in a building vacated when Shaw Carpets closed in 1995. CMC held its grand opening Friday and employs 175 workers.
Another company, Eastern Pacific International, will make wood veneer products in a new facility under construction in Johnston. EPI is making a $20 million investment and creating 111 new jobs.
The expansion of existing industry also helped Edgefield County's tax base and work force. Mount Vernon Mills/Riegel, a textile plant in Johnston, invested $7.5 million to expand its facility, creating 111 new jobs.
Iverson Perennials, a nursery operation, made new capital outlays of $3.77 million and added 35 jobs. The National Wild Turkey Federation in Edgefield also made $791,000 worth of building additions, adding 21 workers to its payroll.
"We have in place now a qualified team that is dedicated to expanding Edgefield County's tax base and improving its overall economy," said Bettis Rainsford, chairman of the county's economic development committee. "That team proved in 2000 that it can successfully compete for new investment."
Reach Katie Throne at (803) 279-6895.