Jonathan Coleman is getting pretty tired of telling people “no.”
But, because of a lack of buildings and space in Laurens County, the director of Laurens County Development Corp. has done a lot of that when companies are looking for sites to either expand or relocate their business.
Now, in partnership with the city of Clinton and the Laurens Electric Cooperative, the city and county are developing the I-26 Commerce Park, located at the intersection of Interstate 26 and S.C. Highway 72 in Clinton. Officials broke ground on the first speculation development, a 100,000-square-foot pad, in late April.
“We have no available buildings in the county of any size, so we have really missed out on some prospects,” Coleman said. “The city of Clinton is trying to expand the city, and we are trying to help them with that.”
He said about 60% of the requests for proposal that come across his desk have to be put aside because the county doesn’t have speculation buildings or available land as requested by some businesses. Now, the hope is the 100,000-square-foot initial offering will grow into future development of the 750-acre park.
The development agency and the city of Clinton have worked with Pacolet Milliken, owners of the acreage, to begin developing the land. Clinton City Manager Frank Stovall said the thought process behind creating an industrial park in Clinton developed after officials noted a change in the local economy, which prompted a discussion about what to do in terms of manufacturing, tier one and tier two suppliers and how Laurens County could be in the mix.
“We all sat down at the table and talked about how we could develop the property into a class A industrial park,” Stovall said. “That is really the goal, and it is perfect for logistics-based businesses.”
Now, the agency is purchasing land needed using a grant from Laurens Electric Cooperative in hopes of spurring growth, not just in Clinton, but in the southern section of Laurens County where growth has been somewhat scarce.
“You can be positioned right between the BMW plant in Greer and the new Volvo plant going in Berkeley County,” Stovall said. “It can even provide opportunities for companies that are looking outside the state, and we are really in a great place for South Carolina, but we are not far from the critical I-85 corridor.”
Another selling point is the park is serviced by dual electric companies. One part of the park is serviced by the city of Clinton and the other serviced by Laurens Electric Cooperative. Stovall said having that means companies have redundant power options, if they locate at the park.
“Companies that are engaged in advanced manufacturing need power,” Stovall said. “By having dual feed power, you are pretty much guaranteed – unless there is a big natural disaster – to have power. That works for data centers and manufacturers who can have backup.”
Coleman said in addition to the initial 100,000-square-foot pad development, the plans include the development of a 150,000-square-foot pad with a speculation building, giving Laurens County Development Corp.and the city of Clinton a pair of potential properties to market, one ready to build and another with a building already on it.
The addition of the I-26 Commerce Park gives Laurens County not just an industrial park in Clinton, but also one on an interstate and a third in the county. Coleman said the northern part of the county is another target for potential speculation building but the immediate goal is to start finding prospects for the new park in Clinton.
“A good prospect that creates jobs and one with a sizable capital investment would be a target,” Coleman said. “It doesn’t have to be in the automotive industry, just one that is a benefit to the people of Laurens County.”
The Clinton Economic Development Corp. has a $400,000 grant from the city to use for potential projects at the commerce park. Stovall said the city is expecting to spend another $600,000 for added infrastructure, such as sewer line expansion into the park.
While that may seem like a $1 million gamble to take on speculation development, Stovall said it was a gamble the city of Clinton was willing to take.
“We are positioning ourselves to be ready when companies are looking,” Stovall said. “We think that investing in this park is the right direction, and our partners feel the same way, otherwise they wouldn’t invest.
“It’s a spec investment, but we and other organizations are betting on the community and the people in it, and we feel that is a safe bet.”