Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Movin' Dirt


Springtime in Clinton is wonderful. It starts when that one tree in front of the Dowdle – Mays cottage at Thornwell turns pink and cumulates in an explosion of azalea blooms, dogwood petals, heirloom daffodils, and new green leaves on the trees that line our streets. Walking through neighborhoods there is an unmistakable smell of spring which is a mixture of flowery perfumes, bbq gills being exercised for the first time after a long winter in storage, and the smell of fresh dirt as early spring flowers and vegetables go into the ground.

Out by exit 54 on the interstate the smell of fresh dirt being turned over is overpowering as bulldozers churn away grading the site of a new Zaxby’s. Before the first construction comes out of the ground, the momentum has already attracted additional prospective businesses who we met with at the site last week to discuss how doing business in Clinton would be a smart investment.

Dirt is on the move in Lydia Mill as well. The Laurens County Water And Sewer Commission, which manages the sewer service in the Lydia Mill community, is working to replace and rehabilitate sewer lines in the neighborhood using a community development block grant from the SoutH Carolina Department of Commerce.

Dirt is about to be on the move at the I-26 Commerce Park on the interstate. Thanks to a grant and some city economic development funds, the city will grade a 100,000 square foot development ready pad to lure future business. After the dirt is moved and the dust clears the site will look to you and me like just any other open field, but to a potential manufacturer it looks like land that they can start building on immediately. This means the company can avoid the costs associated with reviewing and testing the site, and the time and money needed to grade the land out for future construction. It will be the first time we have done a project like that in our city, but for the most part new manufacturing facilities that are locating in our region are locating in places where the infrastructure is in place, the land has been graded, or an existing building is in place and ready for occupancy. It’s time to start making our community competitive instead of just waiting for lady luck to drop jobs in our lap.

Dirt is about to be on the move in downtown as well. The next phase of our downtown streetscape efforts will get under way this summer with new sidewalks, landscaping, and some new signage along Broad Street and Main Street. Making our downtown a nice place to shop and do business means we have to make it an aesthetically pleasing place to be. In the recent survey of citizens conducted as part of our strategic planning effort, one area that the citizens told us to work on was the appearance of the built environment and public spaces in our city, and this next phase of streetscape addresses one of the most visible parts of our community.

There are also big projects in the planning stages as well, including the development of better parks and recreation services, improving the look of the gateways into our city, additional developments and improvements along West Corporate Center Drive, Clinton Corporate Park III, and the I26 Commerce Park. It’s all part of a concerted effort to make Clinton a great place to business, a competitive community, and to make our city a great place to live.

If you are like me, spring brings on seasonal allergies and discomfort as the pollen rains down from the trees and coats every surface in a fine green powder. These springtime efforts in our community will not be without challenges. You might have to sit in traffic on Broad Street a little longer this summer as we make improvements, and it might take time before additional growth happens in the I-26 Commerce Park. However, planting the seeds for a better Clinton for tomorrow will be worth the inconveniences of today.

I believe this is our spring. We have prepared and struggled through the winter. Now, like gardeners, we move dirt and lay seeds that we hope, with the right conditions, will blossom and bear fruit. Like all springs, there will be things that make us uncomfortable like pollen and the occasional frightening severe thunderstorm, but the rain will clear, the pollen will blow away, and we will grow and move forward as long as we are prudent and careful and thoughtful in our efforts.