OPINION SHAPER: We’re no longer a bedroom community

SUMMERVILLE JOURNAL SCENE – OPINION SHAPER

If you listen carefully and the wind is just right, you may be able to hear the heated debate on educational funding drifting all the way from Columbia. There’s no doubt this is an important issue and as a father of two Dorchester District II students, I certainly have a vested interest in the outcome. As the Director of Economic Development for Dorchester County, I am tasked with being a part of the solution.

While I acknowledge there is no single magic answer that will immediately ease the funding challenges and erase the mistakes of that past that we’re still grappling with today, I do believe that growing and diversifying our tax base is a major step in the right direction. My team and I work towards that goal every day.

Recently, we’ve heard a few comments filtering out of the debate at the Statehouse regarding Dorchester County, that we’d like to weigh in on here because the reality of what we know to be true is at odds with the urban myth and rumors we’re hearing.

For example, “We’re just a bedroom community. A commuter town. We have to work in other counties because there’s no industry here.”

According to Wikipedia, it’s implied that a bedroom community or commuter town has little commercial or industrial activity beyond a small amount of locally oriented retail businesses.

While it may have been the case in years past and while we may not have as much as some of our neighbors, having none is simply not true here today.

Did you know that Dorchester County has a robust and growing manufacturing community that employs more than 6,000 residents? In fact, Robert Bosch, one of the top five employers in the Charleston region, has called Dorchester County home since 1973 and has over 2,000 employees alone.

World-class companies like Showa Denko Carbon, KION, Unifrax, Giant Cement, Argos Cement, the BID Group, Thrace Linq, James Hardie and Voith – just to name a few of the nearly 80 industrial companies represented in our county – employ thousands of people in our community and play an active part in making the County a better place to work, live, and play.

Would it surprise you to learn that more boats are made in Dorchester County than any other county in the state? Between Scout Boats, Sportsman Boats, Zodiac, Key West Boats, and Freeman Boatworks nearly 1,000 people are gainfully employed right here in Dorchester County.

Did you know we have announced over $357,000,000 in new capital investment over the last four years with over new 1800 jobs?  We have added new world-class companies like Sundaram Clayton, WABCO and Paul Bippus to the growing list of great corporate citizens that call Dorchester County home.

That’s why we are dedicated to growing our manufacturing, industrial, and logistics industries. We work to recruit companies that will provide significant capital investments in our County and bring high-skill, high-paying jobs for our citizens.

There’s no question that we are proud to still be known as a quaint place to live and raise a family, but the term bedroom community no longer fits. While some of you weren’t watching, Dorchester County has made well-planned progress towards diversifying our tax base and growing our way out of the problem.

What do I mean by that? Diversifying and growing our tax base helps fund the great school systems we have. Dorchester County has wisely invested in infrastructure to support tax base growth.  Those projects are expensive and take a long time to build, but they are starting to bear fruit.

We know we’re not there yet, but prospects are visiting. The interest in Dorchester County is out there. Companies are hearing about our favorable business climate, engaged County Council, and strategic location and they are seeing us as a contender. We hope our community can do the same.

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