Another economic development announcement could be on Sumter’s horizon

If pending actions by Sumter City Council and Sumter County Council are any indication, the local economy could see another significant economic development announcement in the coming months.

At their next meeting Tuesday, Sumter City Council plans on considering giving the Black River Spec Building on North Wise Drive, a building long held by the municipal government, to Sumter County.

According to a resolution before city council members, county officials have asked for the transfer of both the 104,000 square foot facility by Sumter Airport and the nearly 28 acres it sits on in order to “streamline negotiations, allow quicker decision making and improve accountability for the property.”

At their last meeting in January, county council themselves held an executive session to discuss a potential economic development as well.  It is believed that executive session discussion ties directly in to the request for the city’s building.

If agreed upon, the property transfer from the city to the county will require two votes by city council, meaning any transfer would likely not occur until after the city’s Feb. 21 meeting at the earliest.

According to property cards maintained by the South Carolina Department of Commerce, the Black River Spec Building has an asking price of $1.2 million, however the city is expected to use a quit claim deed to hand over the property to the county for only $5.  As part of their proposed resolution approving the transfer, city council says handing over the deed  “would serve the public purpose by fostering economic development, encouraging job creation, and supporting additional investment in the local community, and that the benefits thereby attained outweigh the monetary value of the property.”

If everything comes to fruition, a new company moving in to the building by Sumter Airport would mark the end of a long period of vacancy for the facility initially constructed to lure economic development back in 2001.

The potential development could also be the second in a relatively short period of time by economic development standards, since back in October, El Paso-based confectionery company Mount Franklin Foods announced they would be reopening the facility formerly occupied by Au’Some Candies, expecting to bring with them a capital investment of $10 million and 225 jobs.

For some time now, Sumter has had one of the highest unemployment rates of any metropolitan area in the southeast United States. However the underlying figures provided by the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics that are used to calculate the local unemployment rate have shown signs of encouragement, as more potential workers have begun returning to the local work force, potentially in part because of increased optimism in the local job market.

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