A textile-related business that could invest $18 million and employ 248 workers may be coming to Fort Lawn.
At one time, Springs Industries operated three plants from the eastern Chester County town on S.C. 9, minutes from the Catawba River.
But from 2002 to 2007, Springs Industries – now Springs Global – closed the plants and put thousands of people out of work. Most of the textile manufacturing eventually was moved offshore.
Now, Chester County and Fort Lawn officials are hoping “Project Witness” not only brings jobs, but results in more economic development and tax revenue.
Project Witness, along with Giti Tires’ recently announced plans for a Richburg plant, could also spur residential development in eastern Chester County, officials said.
Fort Lawn Mayor John Rumford said he hopes the project “is an opportunity for Fort Lawn residents to have local employment, that went away when Springs closed its mills.”
The estimated household income in Fort Lawn took a hit when the Springs jobs left. It was $35,694 in 2000 and $24,723 in 2012, according to the U.S. Census bureau.
Rumford, who declined to name the new business, said the prospect would be paying for sewer service. Fort Lawn and Springs Industries once had a deal where the company treated the town’s wastewater.
When Springs Industries closed the plants, that agreement ended, Rumford said. The town then negotiated with the Lancaster County water and sewer district to treat the town’s wastewater. Using state and county grants, the town spent $1.1 million to connect to the Lancaster system.
But Fort Lawn still has an aging system with leaking pipes and old pumps. The town spent $34,000 more than the system’s revenue to keep it operating in the recent fiscal year, Rumford said.
The Chester County Council is considering reducing the prospect’s property tax rate. The percentage of tax reduction has not been determined as Project Witness intends to likely rent the former H.W. Close plant in Fort Lawn.
Typically, localities base a tax reduction on the value of a property and its machinery and other equipment.
Karlisa Parker, Chester County’s economic development director, said if the County Council approves a tax reduction it would be based on machinery and equipment only because the prospect would be renting, not owning a facility.
The Fort Lawn Town Council recently passed an ordinance putting the Close plant in a “multi-county” industrial park. The designation allows an adjoining county to share in the tax revenue. The designation also allows a company in a multi-county park to qualify for an additional $1,000 job tax credit for eligible full-time jobs.
The prospect would likely qualify for job development credits which provide companies with funds – for up to 10 years – to help offset the cost of locating a facility, buying equipment and training employees. The credits are based on the number of full-time jobs created and the level of economic distress where the jobs are created. The value of credits range from $1,500 to $8,000 per jobs.
Chester County Councilman Archie Lucas, who lives in Great Falls, said the recent economic development announcements show that the “I-can’t-find-a-job” excuse will go away “when all this comes to be.”
Giti Tire announced in June plans for its first U.S. tire plant, a $560 million investment that will employ 1,700. The company could start construction as early as September, said Carlisle Roddey, Chester County supervisor.
JN Fibers, operating as Sun Fibers in Chester County, is renovating a building off S.C. 9 to turn recycled soda and water bottles into polyester yarn. The $45 million investment is expected to employ 318.
Jones-Hamilton, a chemical manufacturing plant, broke ground in Chester in May for a $40 million plant expected to employ 20.