DARLINGTON, S.C. -- In 2017, Darlington County announced the single largest new capital investment and jobs project in the past 30 years.
Fiber Industries LLC plans to reopen the former Wellman Palmetto Plant and is on track to start production this spring. The project was over two years in the making and will employee more than 135 people. Many of the first employees are former Wellman employees who are returning to help restart the plant and train new workers.
In order to have attractive industrial properties to lure new projects, the county needs to have shovel-ready sites. The Hartsville Industrial Park is the newest property in the lineup and has just finished the preliminary studies. These studies help prospective companies lower the risk of choosing a property that might have wetlands or other environmental hazards that could delay or prevent a project from building a new facility. The county now has three industrial parks in different parts of the county to attract companies with varying needs.
Growth and expansion in our existing industry sector are continuing with the improvement in the overall economy. The December unemployment rate dropped from 13.8 percent in 2011 to 5.3 percent in 2017, and the trend is expected to continue.
New announcements are expected later this year for several solar farm projects that have been ongoing for more than six months. Passage of the solar farm ordinance last year has streamlined the process for new solar farms and has attracted additional investment with a minimal need for county services. Additional growth and expansion of existing industry is already in the works.
The Dillon Inland Port scheduled opened in April and has already increased interest in the entire region, especially as the labor market isn’t as tight here as it is closer to the Port of Charleston. Darlington County will have easy access to the Inland Port via rail and I-95, and that should make us competitive for additional projects. Most of our industrial sites are located within a 30-minute drive of the port to take advantage of that increased interest.