Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Givin' the Golden Shovels a Workout

The golden shovels, the ones we use for ceremonial groundbreakings that normally live in a dusty storage room at the municipal center which reminds me a bit of that warehouse that they wheel the Ark of the Covenant into at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie, are getting a real workout lately. In the past few months we have busted sod on a new industrial park, scratched the surface for a 100,000 square foot development ready pad, moved dirt for a new road, and pounded on the concrete for the next phase of downtown streetscape efforts.

We have no plans to put the golden shovels away either. I suspect you will see them in July as we break ground on a public private partnership to develop a speculative building on the interstate in our continued effort to lure jobs to our city. I think you will see them at our first trails and greenway project along Millers Fork Creek, and at a second park project at the property donated to our community for public use by the Sterlite Corporation. Private investment in our city is on the rise as well. Expansions and renovations at Presbyterian College, a new restaurant by the interstate, investment in updating other businesses near exits 54 and 52, and new construction along Jacobs Highway for retail are all underway or in the planning stage.

The public projects that are happening right now are only possible because of the partnerships that have been formed between your city, other organizations, and private investors. Five utility providers, the city, the county, two economic development corporations, the South Carolina Department of Commerce, and the Upstate Alliance, as well as two private investors have played a role in making these projects a reality. It is an unprecedented level of partnering for progress in our city.

These many partners are able to work together because we all took the time over the past two years to plan together. When we developed our economic development strategic plan we did it with citizens, business owners, industries, the schools, county leaders, city leaders, college leaders, and economic developers. The projects we are undertaking now, including the future discussions of joining the National Main Street program to support creating a better environment for small businesses to thrive, were not ideas developed behind closed doors by a select few individuals but came instead directly from the citizens in the form of their candid comments through the National Citizen Survey and the Economic Development Needs Survey.

You spoke and said that you want a better looking city. You spoke and said that you want us to focus on economic development. You spoke and said that you want a better downtown. You spoke and said that you want Clinton to become a great place to be in business. You spoke and said that you want Clinton to be a great place to live. You spoke. We listened. We are taking action.

We have to be realistic in our expectations. None of these projects guarantee an easy or better future for any of us. However, we know what get if we keep doing what we have been doing.  Yes, we are taking a large gamble with the hopes that these projects will lead to growth in jobs and a better quality of life in our community. We are betting on this place and the people that live here, and I think that is a pretty safe bet.