Building the infrastructure to keep pace with IL boom

The relocation of CompuCom Systems’ Texas headquarters and 1,500 jobs to Indian Land is yet another sign of the Panhandle’s remarkable economic pull.
But for some residents, that growth comes with growing pains.
“The first thing that comes to mind is thank goodness for the jobs. We all need a job,” said Gary Holland, Indian Land community activist. “But I wonder why they all have to locate right in the same area, because with Movement Mortgage and Keer Textile Group, it’s almost impossible to get to and from work on Highway 160.”
Holland said the state’s zeal for economic development should be matched by the infrastructure improvements needed to handle it.
“I think the governor has done a great job in promoting South Carolina,” he said. “Jobs are good, but traffic is horrible. It looks like the state and the county should be ahead of the growth rather than playing catch-up.”
Schools are another part of the county’s infrastructure impacted by big job announcements.
Dr. Gene Moore, superintendent of the Lancaster County School District, said it’s too early to predict the CompuCom project’s impact on the district. Work is about ready to start on a new high school and elementary school in the Panhandle, paid for by this year’s $199 million bond issue.
“Any new business bringing that many high-tech, high-paying jobs will offer graduates of our schools great job opportunities in the future,” Moore said. “We’ll just have to wait to see how many of those employees choose to live in our county, and specifically in Indian Land, to predict how it will affect our district.”
Dean Faile, president of the Lancaster chamber, said the schools will be a key component of the continued growth of the county’s high-tech sector.
“This is a good fit for our area,” Faile said, adding that our high schools, USC Lancaster and York Tech have good programs to prepare workers for information technology jobs like CompuCom’s.
County Administrator Steve Willis said CompuCom’s impact on school crowding would be determined by the percentage of its workers who live in Lancaster County and use our schools. Many will live in York County and Mecklenburg and Union counties across the state line.
He also noted that many of Indian Land’s new companies are investing in our public schools, not just placing burdens on them.
“The companies that have located in the Panhandle have been good corporate partners,” he said. “Continental has done a lot for Indian Land High School, and Red Ventures has invested in the region’s schools. Hopefully this will be a very positive thing for the school district,” Willis said.
As for roads, Willis said there are projects in the works that should help handle the congestion.
“Construction is about to begin on Highway 160, which should help alleviate those concerns and we will work through it with the expansion of 160. I have no idea of the construction timetable, but 160 should be nearing completion by the time CompuServe opens,” he said.
More people working in the area is great news for Indian Land’s retailers and restaurants.
“The more people, the merrier,” said Trey Link, manager of Jim ‘n Nicks Barbecue Restaurant.
Link said he is excited for the coming growth and the restaurant will grow right along with it. Jim ‘n Nicks opened in October across the street from the Redstone, a 40-acre retail development at the intersection of U.S. 521 and S.C. 160.
Growth will be a big positive for many businesses, but also brings challenges to residents just trying to drive to and from work or to the grocery store.
Since March of this year, when Movement Mortgage opened its 600-employee headquarters at the corner of Calvin Hall Road, the traffic on S.C. 160 comes to a standstill and is bumper-to-bumper during rush hour.
Earlier this year, SCDOT announced it was ready to move forward on a long-awaited $14 million project to widen S.C. 160, with bids solicited in November for an early 2017 start. The project is expected to take three years to complete.
S.C. 160 is one of Indian Land’s busiest roads, with an average daily traffic volume of 15,900 vehicles. SCDOT estimates it will reach 25,800 a day by 2030.
Work on the $14 million project to widen 2.3 miles of the road, from Possum Hollow Road west to the York County line, was to have started in 2015 and wrap up in 2017.
In late June, SCDOT District 4 engineer Greg Shaw said the department has asked that a traffic light be installed at the intersection of S.C. 160 and Calvin Hall early in the project.
At issue, he said, is getting money for the turn lanes and other associated intersection upgrades so early in the project.
Willis said SCDOT has said the intersection remains a priority.
In September, Willis advised The Lancaster News that the department is aware of the current traffic issues at the intersection.
“They do intend to get the intersection worked on first,” he said. “The issue is, in order to have signals there and make it work right, you’ve got to have those turn lanes. Just putting a signal up with no turn lane is not going to help the situation at all, probably make it even worse.”

By Mandy Catoe, Staff Reporter with The Lancaster News