New year brings hope for robust economy

  • Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Tommy Howard/Times Brian Tucker will take over his duties as Economic Development director for Georgetown County at the end of January.

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Brian Tucker will lead Georgetown County’s efforts to develop business and industry in the new year.

During the last month of 2013, officials in counties north, south and west of Georgetown announced new industry or expansions with hundreds of jobs.

Through the end of the year, Georgetown County was able to announce only a small handful of new jobs, but the chances are that will change.

Helping to lead that change, Brian Tucker will officially assume his duties as director of Economic Development for Georgetown County at the end of January.

He’s not a stranger to the county, though, having served as president and CEO of the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce for about 18 months.

As Tucker pointed out in a recent conversation with the Georgetown Times, most new jobs are created from existing industries.

A good example of that is the likelihood that SEFA Group (Southeastern Fly Ash) will announce new jobs in Georgetown.

The company’s facility adjacent to the Winyah Generating Station at Georgetown already has a small work force. President Tom Hendrix recently got approval from Georgetown County Council to extend a tax incentive from 20 to 40 years. The county also gave the OK for participation in a revenue bond issue through the state for $40 million.

Also located next to the Santee Cooper power plant, American Gypsum will celebrate a million safe hours worked since the plant started operating.

Gypsum from the Winyah Station is used to make wallboard. The fly ash processed by SEFA Group will be used for a mineral product in paints, plastics and rubber.

As he has worked with the local Chamber of Commerce since the summer of 2012, Tucker has developed relationships with various industries and businesses.

He knows he will have to develop more, and mentions International Paper Co. and SafeRack as two examples.

IP has been a key part of the community since the late 1930s, and SafeRack built and expanded its facility outside Andrews over the past decade.

Environment

“We don’t create jobs,” Tucker said. “We create an environment for private industry to create jobs.”

That means Tucker will be working “to make it easier to do that here than anywhere else in the world.”

The people, the lifestyle and local culture, and the natural and man-made attractions that are so special in Georgetown County are key attractions.

Boeing is already building major parts of its 787 Dreamliner in North Charleston, and has announced several expansions. Suppliers are finding locations nearby, and one of those has opened in Andrews.

Tucker wants to develop relationships with Boeing and the state Department of Commerce with an eye towards welcoming other vendors and suppliers to Boeing and other new businesses.

Niche markets

A concept of industry recruitment has been “cluster” developments, such as automotive or plastics.

“Moreso than industry clusters, we want to develop a profile of businesses doing well.”

Along with IP and SafeRack, another company doing well as a niche manufacturer is AgruAmerica.

“SafeRack is a great entrepreneurial story. Over 10 years, the company has grown to 170 people in Andrews and 250 total,” Tucker said.

“If we can find a high-tech manufacturer in a niche market, who enjoys the quality of life Georgetown County has to offer ­— the beach, plantations, outdoors — whatever lifestyle, that’s part of it.”

“We need steady successes,” Tucker said, more than big announcements that may not be as successful.

“A lot of 50-job announcements, versus 600, 700 or 1,000-job manufacturing companies.”

“We’ve proven that we can support smaller manufacturing operations.”

Over the past decade, especially, many people have said if the Port of Georgetown were to be dredged, we can get new industries.

“But, we’re not going to wait for that to happen,” Tucker said.

“We understand what we don’t have, but I don’t think we really understand what we do have.”

“If we spent as much time talking about the assets we do have, we would have some measure of success.”

Open the toolbox

There are challenges facing Georgetown County. And those go beyond the silting of the Port and the federal channel, Tucker acknowledged.

He plans to devote time talking about the wonderful place that is literally all around Georgetown.

He likened the port to a tool in a tool box.

“If we were to have the port dredged at 27 feet, that opens up a different pool of prospects we can call on. It gives us a huge leg up on our competition.”

What assets?

As Tucker talked about a dredged port as a tool, he related some of the other assets in the toolbox.

Quality of life is one of the biggest assets.

“Where else would you want to live?”

Georgetown County has a number of sites with good water and rail access.

“From an infrastructure standpoint, those are a huge plus,” he said.

“I am convinced we have a very solid workforce.”

“We have a lot of really good people who have a strong work ethic.”

Places like AgruAmerica, International Paper and SafeRack all have a solid workforce.

“We will be doing more with that,” Tucker continued.

That work will include creating technical training opportunities, working with the school system, industries and Horry-Georgetown Technical College.

“Boeing will have tremendous pull. There will be a lot of people living in Georgetown County who work at Boeing and their suppliers,” Tucker said.

The state of South Carolina offers a pro-business environment.

“Gov. [Nikki} Haley has made it her mission to creat a very pro-business environment. We owe it to her to benefit from her stance.”

Editor’s Note: In an upcoming segment of the conversation with Tucker, the Times will explore manufacturing, tourism and other facets of economic development.

It’s also important to note that Bill Crowther of the Alliance for Economic Development will offer an update on that organization on Monday, Jan. 13, from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. The presentation will be at the Quality Inn and Suites at 210 Church Street in Georgetown. The Breakfast Briefings for Chamber of Commerce members is open to non-members. Call Gwendolyn Polite at the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce at (843) 546-8436, ext. 24. Cost for Chamber members will be $10, and $15 for non-members. The cost includes a continental breakfast.

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