Job growth requires ready facilities

Lancaster County is primed for continued job growth this year, county Economic Development Director Jamie Gilbert says, and it’s scrambling to find enough good facilities to meet their needs.Play

“The top issue is clearly product development,” said department Director Jamie Gilbert, discussing the county’s 2018 goals for job creation.

“There is strong interest by some local industries looking to expand that need locations for their operations,” Gilbert said.

When coupled with new industry that is being steered here by the S.C. Department of Commerce and the Charlotte Regional Partnership, Gilbert said there is a need for facilities. That, he said, includes existing buildings that might be suitable for new occupants.

“We do have two buildings we’ve been able to actively market in the last two months (Duracell and Valmet), as far as large buildings go.”

The struggle, he noted, is a lack of suitable industrial buildings in the 20,000- to 30,000-square-foot range.

“We just don’t have them. Nothing,” he said. “When we have product to work with, we know how to get deals done and make things happen.”

That scarcity has Gilbert already pursuing one option. He is talking with the brokers of the old U.S. Textiles building in Heath Springs about marketing it as a facility for multiple tenants.

The 150,000-square-foot building is on a 10-acre tract near the intersection of South College Street and Rowland Avenue on the edge of the Heath Springs town limits. Silkies, a hosiery manufacturer, last used the building in 2016 as a distribution center.

“It would really be ideal in terms of 20,000 to 30,000 feet,” Gilbert said. “We’d love to have that.”

He also noted that some suitable industrial tracts have been identified, but the locations need infrastructure – water and sewer, along with roads – to access them.

“The problem is the timing in what will it cost and how long will it take to do it,” he said. “You don’t know if it will meet the project’s timeframe. We’re trying to figure out ways to quickly address that to make it work.

“I often feel like the dog that caught the car. We have all these business that want to come here. We got ’em, but what do we do with them now that they want to be here?” Gilbert said. “Making sure we have product is going to be very helpful.”

Did you know?

In fiscal 2017, Lancaster County experienced a history-making year in teams of job growth. There were 2,843 new jobs created and new investment pumped $85 million into the economy – nearly $1,000 for each county resident.

By Gregory A. Summers, Staff Reporter with The Lancaster News