Chester County goal for 2015 is ‘year of renewal’

RICHBURG — Last year was a banner year for economic development in Chester County, with Giti Tire, Jones-Hamilton and Sun Fibers announcing they are building new manufacturing plants and creating jobs in the county.

Existing manufacturers — companies that chose to stay in Chester County — announced expansions.

For 2015, economic development supporters in the county are dedicating themselves to a year of renewal.

“It will be a year of renewal, a renewal of hope,” said Joanie Winters, Chester County’s attorney and new chairwoman of the Chester County Chamber of Commerce.

Winters’ goal is that “downtown Chester is renewed to its former elegance,” that Chester County renews its facilities and there be a renewed commitment to existing industries, especially small businesses. Without small businesses such as coffee shops, convenience stores and barber and hair salons, “you can’t attract new, big, business,” Winters told about 300 people at the chamber’s annual yearly banquet.

Part of the renewal will come from one of the newest partners in Chester County — the Interstate 77 Alliance.

Alliance president and CEO Rich Fletcher said the organization — in place for 15 months — will have a specific focus that should benefit all the counties along the 90-mile stretch of I-77 between Charlotte and Columbia.

“We are not a full-service organization,” Fletcher said. “We are not a project manager, we do not focus on existing industries and there is no public relations.”

The alliance’s focus in on marketing the four counties along I-77 — Chester, Fairfield, Richland and York — courting economic prospects, and branding the region. A gain for one county benefits all four, he said. “County lines are invisible” to prospects, Fletcher said.

The alliance will work closely with the state Department of Commerce and site location consultants. Half of the companies that have located in South Carolina hired a consultant to do their property search, he said.

Industry sectors the alliance will target are automotive, aviation and advanced manufacturing. That list could grow once the alliance completes is strategic vision, Fletcher said.

Two outstanding Chester County residents also were honored Thursday. Nancy Anderson, former Chester City Council member and civic activist, was awarded the Duke Power Citizenship & Service Award, and for the third consecutive year Autumn Castles won the Ambassadors Award for chamber volunteers.

Don Worthington —803-329-4066