What is Clarendon County Economic Development?
by Laura Stone | February 4, 2019 7:30 am
Last Updated: February 3, 2019 at 4:48 pm
Clarendon County Economic Development (CCED) and its executive director, George Kosinski, have hit the news recently with stories such as the BCA expansion or the Love’s Travel Plaza. However, some residents are still scratching their heads wondering what this particular government department really does for the county.
According to their website, the Clarendon County Economic Development team “promotes the success of existing industry and recruits companies and entrepreneurs worldwide to be part of our exciting future and join our growing economy.” It further states they are “continually investing in industry and workforce development, infrastructure improvements and initiatives that enhance overall quality of life.”
Well, that explains it all. Or does it?
“Our two main objectives are to recruit new companies and keep the existing companies we have in the community. We also help companies facilitate expansion plans, such as with BCA,” said Kosinski.
According to Kosinski, daily operations include assisting executives and site consultants with site selection, maintaining current inventory of available buildings and sites and performing demographic and market research.
They further partner with other entities or other community partners for workforce training, existing industry retention and expansion services and coordination of local, state and private economic development efforts.
“We are a staff of two, and we are a division of Clarendon County,” said Kosinski. The two also answer to an 11-member board, which meets with Kosinski monthly to go over things that have happened, things that need to happen and things which may need a vote to move forward.
According to Kosinski, economic developers know a little about a lot of different things. They must understand the legal issues facing a development, taxes and tax structures, schools and school systems and how they operate, quality of life, housing developments, infrastructure, workforce and higher education opportunities.
“We have to know something about all of those things or act as a liaison between those different organizations and the companies,” said Kosinski. “Instead of selling a pen or a widget or a fork, you’re selling a community. It’s a much bigger sales pitch. You’re selling not only the building, but the roads leading to it, the housing and schools for workers, the shopping and restaurants, the community and quality of life. Every single aspect you can think of has to be buttoned up and ready to go.”
Each day is a surprise, according to Kosinski. A day might bring a string of calls dealing with workforce development issues, infrastructure concerns or wooing of a new corporation. However, it could also end up as a day when Kosinski is out at an industrial park picking up trash, ensuring the location looks “Class A.”
While the department spends a great deal of time working on projects, another chunk of time is spent behind the scenes making sure industrial parks are clean, roads are maintained, electricity volume and water and sewer capacities are appropriate and more.
“We kind of do everything,” said Kosinski. “The main goal is to increase capital investment and provide jobs for the citizens of Clarendon County. To accomplish this, I’m going to tell you Clarendon County is the best place to do business in the Southeast, possibly in the entire United States.”
With an education in business and logistics and job experience in sales and economic development, Kosinski brought a fresh perspective to the county three and a half years ago when he accepted the position.
According to Kosinski, a lead is when a business starts an inquiry into Clarendon County. A lead turns into a project once several conversations have been held and the inquiring company is close to scheduling a site visit.
Last year, Kosinski states the County had 41 leads. Of those, 30 turned into projects, many of which are still ongoing: five expansions and 17 brand new companies which might come to Clarendon. The County won five projects in 2018, not including the Love’s Travel Plaza.
“That’s a great number,” said Kosinski. “We had a really, really good year last year.”
The five projects will bring roughly $25 million in new capital investments to Clarendon County, which will include 106 new jobs. These include Meritor with $5.2 million in investments and 31 jobs, Georgia Pacific with $4.5 million in investments, BCA with $5 million in investments and 65 new jobs, Southern Current and the three solar farms with $10 million in investments and Service Management Distribution, Inc., with 10 new jobs.
These numbers do not include the incoming Love’s Travel Plaza. Kosinski states Economic Development usually does not get involved with the recruitment of hotels and retail businesses. However, Kosinski insists Loves was a bit different.
“We got there through a conversation we had with some of our allies about the project,” said Kosinski.
Leads often come from the South Carolina Department of Commerce or from allies at a regional marketing arm called Central SC Alliance, where Clarendon County is a member. Leads can also come through recruitment trips to other states or internationally. Some come from an existing industry mentioning a supplier they’d like to see nearby or an engineering company mentioning a company they work with who they feel is a good community fit.
“It’s almost like an alliance of developers and engineers and construction companies we communicate with on a daily and weekly basis to find leads,” said Kosinski.
Kosinski realizes Clarendon won’t win all of the outstanding projects. Sometimes he works with companies for up to a year before they decide upon locations. However, he works closely with the Clarendon County Council and the three City Councils, and he asserts another big announcement is in the very near future, as soon as they wrap up the final details.
“We are all part of Team Clarendon,” said Kosinski. “It’s a big team of partners, and we’re all saying Clarendon County is the premier place to grow your business.”