Monday, November 17, 2008

Where do we go from here?

By GENE ZALESKI, T&D Staff WriterMonday, November 17, 2008

Orangeburg County economic development officials say the game plan is in place, the motivational speeches given and now is the time to translate talk into action.

“The future is nothing but a string of nows,” Orangeburg County Development Commission Executive Director Gregg Robinson said, reflecting on last week’s economic development summit. “This is going to be a coordinated effort.”

With Jafza South Carolina planning to proceed with the development of its $600 million logistics/industrial park, there is not much time to waste, officials say. Jafza this week provided more details about its plans to build a 1,322-acre, five-phase park near Santee.

The company plans to break ground on the project in late 2009. It estimates it could create about 3,700 direct jobs in the county over the next 12 years.

Officials say the county must improve its infrastructure to handle the activity from Jafza and potential spin-offs.

Orangeburg County Council Chairman Harry Wimberly said council’s next step will be to have a meeting with Jafza leaders to better pinpoint the company’s specific road needs.

“We have to get a cost estimate on it and work from that standpoint and the funding we have available,” Wimberly said. “I think that will be the top priority for the county.”

The county’s infrastructure is being addressed through the capital penny sales tax. From the tax, $7 million has been set aside for water, wastewater and road improvements within what the county has trademarked the “Global Logistics Triangle.”

About $1 million of the $7 million will be spent on water and wastewater lines from the town of Bowman along S.C. Highway 210 to Interstate 95, Exit 165.

Additional money from the penny tax will go toward tying municipalities in the eastern part of the county to the Lake Marion Regional Water Agency project. Water lines will also be constructed to the John Matthews Industrial Park at U.S. Highways 301 and 176.

In addition, preliminary engineering studies are under way for a 1.5-million-gallon wastewater treatment facility to be built behind the Matthews Industrial Park.

“This is just the beginning,” Orangeburg County Development Commission Chairperson Jeannine Kees said. “The baton has been passed to us and we have to take it and run with it.”

Another issue facing the county is rail access.

“We (the county) can’t put in additional rail, but we can keep all focused,” Kees said. “We realize we have done the preparation and invested in ourselves. It will take a lot of work.”

Jafza believes that by 2020, its project could generate about 50,000 daily traffic trips with about 60 percent of the traffic using the interstates and the adjacent Interstate 95-U.S. 301 interchange.

“Rail is a significant issue,” Robinson said. “For years, with gas being a buck fifty, we said truck to truck. But let’s look at what the future offers. We are telling the people it is coming. We can embrace it or we can benefit from it or we can miss it.”

Currently, the Jafza property has about one mile of CSX rail line. But Jafza and local officials would also like for Norfolk Southern to serve the site.

Without dual access, goods destined for a location CSX does not serve would have to be transferred to Norfolk Southern – a timely and costly endeavor, they say.

Kees said another issue is education.

“We need to identify the types of training we need for the work force,” she said. “This means looking at the educational process of our young people so there are opportunities for them in the future.”

n T&D Staff Writer Gene Zaleski can be reached by e-mail at gzaleski or by phone at 803-533-5551. Discuss this and other stories online at The

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