With several significant regional economic developments projects announced this past year, 2012 will be remembered as a year of reinvestment.
Major reinvestors included:
• Ross Dress for Less. The company is building a 1.2 million-square-foot distribution and data center at the Antrim Business Park in Rock Hill. It will employ about 600 people. It will be Ross third distribution facility in York County. Mark Farris, York Countys economic developer, said he started recruiting Ross in 1996.
• Red Ventures. The Internet marketing firm continues to expand its Indian Land campus, adding a building and jobs. This past summer, the company announced plans to add as many as 1,000 jobs over the next five years.
• Haddon House Food Products. The company is spending $3.1 million and hiring 100 people at its Richburg facility. Haddon considered expanding operations in New Jersey or Florida locations but opted to invest here, Chester County economic developer Karlisa Parker said.
• J.C. Penney and Walmart. J.C. Penney renovated and expanded its location at the Galleria in Rock Hill. Walmart built a new store in Chester and is building a Sams Club in Rock Hill.
The reinvestment is important, regional economic developers say, because it means there is a different level of confidence. Local developers and investors are working together and thats a precondition to getting outside interest, said Stephen Turner, Rock Hills economic developer.
Local interest resulted in Chester County landing Rolled Alloys, a provider of stainless steel, nickel, cobalt and titanium alloys. The company is investing $3.7 million and is expected to hire 24 people.
Recruitment of Rolled Alloys started when officials from another Chester company, Outokumpu, came to the Parker and suggested that Rolled Alloys would be a good neighbor. Outokumpu makes stainless steel from recycled materials.
Turner hopes local interest is the catalyst for the redevelopment of the old Rock Hill Printing & Finishing textile site the Bleachery. A group of local business leaders are focusing their efforts on redeveloping the site as a technology park.
The site could be home to more than 1,000 higher-paying jobs, Turner said. He said the city is seeking technology jobs for the site because these skilled jobs will support lower skill jobs.
That number of jobs could be a real game changer, he said, because new jobs create demand for more housing and retail.
Turner is optimistic that 2013 could be a pivotal year for other Rock Hill projects.
An announcement on Comporiums downtown redevelopment project is expected in January. Tearing down the old Woolworth store on Main Street and building a multistory apartment complex also are likely.
Redevelopment of the old Celanese textile site as the Riverwalk Business Park is starting with Physicians Choice Laboratory Services decision to move from Charlotte. Company officials are investing $24.1 million in a new building after looking at several existing buildings and sites in the region.
The steel framework of the new labs is being erected off Celriver Road. A muddy, graded path is the entry to the site.
While the business park is a prime business location just off Interstate 77 it has been difficult to access. When the path is paved and Celriver Road widened to five lanes, marketing the business park will be easier, Farris and Turner said.
Economic development priorities for 2013 include acquiring and developing more land for business parks. York County officials are working with the owners of 163 acres adjacent to the South Carolina Welcome Center to turn it into a business park.
The county is also talking with Cato Fashion, which is considering buying 260 acres adjacent to Knights Stadium.
The county owns Knights Stadium. The Knights, the AAA farm team of the Chicago White Sox, will play their final season in Fort Mill in 2013 before moving to a new stadium in Charlotte. A distribution center is possible for a portion of the site.
A 100-acre expansion of the Riverwalk Business Park is also possible, Turner said. The park currently has 315 acres.
In Lancaster, a recently approved $3.5 million bond will fund the Lancaster Air-Rail Business Park, said economic developer Keith Tunnell. The park will start with 100 acres but could be expanded to 700 acres, he said. An announcement of the parks first tenant is expected soon.
The regional economic developers are hopeful 2013 will have more announcements. But they are equally cautious: Prospects can come and go quickly.
And existing jobs are not safe. In 2011, companies in Chester, Lancaster and York eliminated about 500 jobs, according to information filed with states Department of Commerce. The largest sudden job loss was 248 positions when Santander Consumer shut down its Fort Mill operations in June.
Still, Chester, Lancaster and York counties posted growing job numbers in 2012.
York Countys jobless rate has been less than 10 percent for the past three months. It spiked at 16.8 percent in January of 2011.
Chester Countys jobless rate has been more than 10 percent since 2006 and hit a of high of 21.1 percent in December 2009. The rate in November, the most recent count available, was 12.5 percent.
Lancaster Countys jobless rate was 11 percent in November. Its high was 18.6 percent in June 2009.
Looking forward, regional economic developers say their biggest concern of 2012 remains entering 2013: having a properly trained work force.
Don Worthington firstname.lastname@example.org