EDITORIAL: A Look Ahead
Clinton and Laurens County public/private agencies have a challenging 2018 ahead of them, as the economy slowly struggles out of the 2008-09 recession and issues of growth start to become real concerns again.
Many of the county’s growth issues are reflected on Page 1 today by Administrator Jon Caime. While it does not directly affect us in Clinton, the mini-boom happening in Gray Court to our north will be addressed in part by our county tax dollars. Clinton and Laurens are united as the new year begins in efforts to construct and market industrial spec buildings -- Laurens CPW and the Laurens County Development Corporation in Hunter Industrial Park, and the City of Clinton in the I-26 Commerce Center. These are other challenges ahead, as we see them:
City of Clinton - the city council approved hiring Bill Ed Cannon, of Florida, as the new city manager, so there will be a “learning curve” with Cannon and the council, as with any new hire in an important position. The City will be putting into place a vision of a “city center” - the idea is to develop this gathering place out of the current Industrial Supply building, and the plans certainly are ambition. Clinton also is poised to continue its growth out Hwy 72 toward I-26, with Clinton High School, the commercial area of Hampton Inn, Fatz, Zaxby’s and soon-to-be Arby’s, with the Commerce Center and Miller’s Fork Trail, at this interstate interchange - a complement to the Hwy 56 and I-26 interchange.
Laurens County - The council will consider implementing Administrator Jon Caime’s vision of a better marketed Laurens County. The county has identification signs at Lake Greenwood (Hwy 72) and Exit 9 on I-385, but there likely will be more emphasis on letting travelers know where they are and what we have to offer. The county has a major challenge ahead in stabilizing its buildings - most county functions are now under one roof, Hillcrest Square, but that roof is well beyond its useful life. Emergency Medical Services, the Historic Courthouse, libraries and parks also are on the county’s agenda for capital projects. How to pay for it is still in development.
Presbyterian College - The implementation of The Promise of PC strategic plan will dominate the Blue Hose 2018 landscape. Neville Hall certainly is the showplace of Laurens County - just a tip to any industry recruiters out there, bring prospects to Neville for meetings and/or lunch - it is stunning, and the audio-visuals are there to make a great pitch for Laurens County. Preparing for new NCAA athletic teams and transitioning into non-scholarship football will be major challenges ahead for PC - as its enrollment vision aims toward 1,600 students on two campuses.
School District 56 - The buildings have been a focus since 2008, and now those look stable. The School Board of Trustees has applied another $1.4 million toward Wilder Stadium, but that is nowhere near enough to make the iconic playing arena a top-notch facility. The City of Clinton is sitting on a pile of money that has been designated for recreation; however, state law stipulations say it must be spent to attract visitors (since the money is generated by visitors/tourists - hospitality) - not for hometown players and spectators - so cross-mixing of City and School District money could be problematic. And, the question remains - Can a city Clinton’s size and economic condition even afford two, large, fully-renovated and expertly maintained football stadia any way?
Just one more “shout-out” - you’re going to hear a lot in the coming year from the Laurens County Water and Sewer Commission. The new water treatment plant on Lake Greenwood is ahead of schedule, but a rainy summer could impact that situation. As LCWSC develops its own water source, it likely will buy less water from Clinton, and the city could feel that financial impact. LCWSC also will have a project involving utilities at Whitten Center. Cooperation and communication will be essential as these - and many other local - projects move forward.