Business

Lancaster: Is it a place of promise or misery?

It use to be you didn’t need a car to get to work in Lancaster County. Most everyone worked at the Springs textile mills and you could grab a ride from someone.

Springs Industries closed its last Lancaster mill in 2007, and a year later Forbes magazine called the city of Lancaster the “most vulnerable place in America,” basing its findings on unemployment rates, people’s incomes, poverty statistics, education levels and mortgage debt.

Four years later, before the 2012 presidential primary, a CNN story on the city of Lancaster reported: “In this God-fearing community known as the Red Rose City, possibilities can seem as rare as blooms in mid-winter.”

But over the last several years, multiple companies have announced plans to open plants or expand. Is the county’s economy rebounding?

Here’s a look at Lancaster County now.

Population

2010: 76,652

2013 estimate: 80,458, 17th largest of S.C.’s 46 counties.

Source: U.S. Census

 

Per capita income

2008: $25,279

2013: $30,834, ranks 24th in S.C.

S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office

 

Unemployment rate

2008: 11.4 percent yearly

2009: 18.6 percent in June, the highest month on record during recession

2012: 11.5 percent yearly

2014: (November, the latest available) 6.7 percent, the lowest it has been since October 2002

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job openings

2008: 2,858 openings, $60,557 average salary.

2014: 4,712 openings, $39,757 average salary

S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce

 

Recent jobs announcements

From 2006 to 2012 Lancaster County ranks 6th for job creation in South Carolina.

2013: 2,365 jobs and investments of $363.45 million announced, including:

•  Keer America, $218 million, 500 jobs announced in December. Construction of a cotton-yarn-making plant in Indian Land is almost finished a year later.

•  Red Ventures expansion, $46 million, 1,200 jobs

2014: 2,100 jobs and $363 million in investments announced including:

•  Haile Gold Mine, $368 million spread out over several years, 350 jobs (plus 1,000 construction jobs). Romarco Minerals started its Haile project in 2007 and recently received final environmental approval for the mine near Kershaw. Ground-breaking is anticipated in March, and Romarco hopes to pour the first gold bar in mid-2016.

•  Red Ventures expansion, $10 million, 1,000 new jobs announced in April as the Internet sales company expands its Indian Land campus.

2015: Movement Mortgage, $22 million, 650 jobs (160 jobs moving from Ballantyne) in Indian Land.

Source: Lancaster Economic Development Corporation

Crime

2008

Violent crimes: 271

Murders, manslaughter: 2

Property crimes: 2,071

2014

Violent crimes: 233

Homicides: 1

Property crimes: 2,102

Source: Uniform Crime Reporting statistics; Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office

 

Education

Graduation rate

2008: 84.6 percent; S.C., 74.9 percent

2014: 82.1 percent; S.C., 80.1 percent

Dropout rates

2009: 4.3 percent; S.C., 3.9 percent

2014: 3 percent, S.C., 2.6 percent

Source: Lancaster schools; SC Department of Education

What people are saying

Larry McCullough, chairman, Lancaster County Council: “You can look at this either as the sun is going down or it’s shining. It’s definitely shining and going up. We have a bright future. There has been unbelievable growth all over the county.”

Nikki Nash, spokeswoman, Founders Federal Credit Union: “The CNN report helped bring the people of Lancaster together, made them fight back, work harder to get companies to come here.”

Tyrom Faulkner, executive director, Lancaster Fatherhood Project: “We’ve made progress ... available jobs mean the world to this community. They result in more stable families and more reasons to stay here.”

The Rev. Huey Mills, pastor, Fellowship Bible Church, Lancaster: “The panhandle has benefited enormously from spillover from Charlotte ... but nothing has happened that is significant enough to raise people’s hopes. ... Restaurants are a good indicator of the economy, and we’ve been going backwards for a while with closings.

Pandricka Truesdale, 42, unemployed, of Lancaster: “When Springs Industries left, it took its toll. ... People bring jobs to Lancaster, but many don’t have transportation to get to them. It’s hard to survive.”

Steve Truesdale, 47, owner of 521 Car Wash & Detailing, Lancaster resident. Truesdale recently lost his job in Charlotte and started his own business: “Opportunities? There are plenty of them; you have to be hungry enough to go get them. Business use to be a car a day. Now, it’s four or five, and I’ve had to add a worker.”

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