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NESA strengthening the region with job growth

NESA strengthening the region with job growth

Jeff McKay is the executive director of the North Eastern Strategic Alliance (NESA). NESA is a nine county regional economic development alliance that works with county allies – Chesterfield, Marlboro, Darlington, Florence, Dillon, Williamsburg, Marion, Horry and Georgetown Counties – and potential clients to facilitate the creation of jobs and capital investment in the northeast region of South Carolina.

Over the past five years, the NESA (North Eastern Strategic Alliance) region of South Carolina has changed dramatically. It’s not just the fact that we’ve added new industries, more jobs and more capital investment, though.

It’s the way our region has undertaken this growth.

Since 2011, we’ve added 8,944 jobs along with $1.5 in new capital investments to our part of the state. From one year to another, we’re continually trending upwards. Though our region is not unfamiliar with the grindstone, we’re also trying to apply our efforts in a more efficient manner.

From refocusing on one of our region’s most historically important industries – agribusiness – to extending our region’s reach across the world through face-to-face meetings with international companies, we’re showing the fruits of a more comprehensive approach to economic development.

With the resurgence of agribusiness throughout our state, our region has been at the forefront of some of the most important advancements pertaining to farming and agribusiness over the past five years.

Five years ago, our region became the first to reevaluate the importance of agribusiness and how we approach the industry with not only our marketing, but with how we generate sites and buildings to house industries dealing with agribusiness.

Now, our region contains more than 12,600 agribusiness and food processing workers and claims annual sales of more than $4 billion, accounting for 21 percent of the state’s total agriculture revenue.

A focus on food processing has led to a number of success stories in Florence County specifically. McCall Farms and Ruiz Foods, two family-owned companies, have both made a tremendous impact on Florence County with both expansions and new projects respectively.

Our region possesses the only two certified “Shovel Ready” sites for the food processing industry – in Florence and Marion counties – giving our region a leg up in providing adequate sites for potential agribusiness projects.

Though we’ve embraced our historical standing as an agribusiness hub, we’re not forgoing our future.

Over the past five years, we’ve increased our global standing by carrying our region’s brand throughout the world to places such as Hanover, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Brussels, Farnborough and Nagoya.

As foreign economies expand, they are able to take advantage of new markets to grow into, providing our region with a valuable opportunity to meet the needs of growing international companies.

With a workforce possessing proud history of manufacturing some of the world’s most high quality goods, international companies from around the globe have found they can be successful in our region.

From Nan Ya Plastics, Honda Manufacturing, BauschLinnemann, Accent Stainless, Beneteau, Shaeffler – INA Bearing to DSM Nutritional Products, our region is home to numerous international companies that have found prosperity in our part of the state.

While we continue to develop our international marketing efforts, we are also improving our existing industry focus, preserving relationships with companies and ensuring their success. In 2015, NESA continued its existing industry outreach visits to companies in our region, providing economic development assistance to further their growth.

Considering our region’s success over the past five years, it’s hard to argue that we haven’t been making progress both in terms of putting our region back to work, as well as helping introduce large capital investments to our local communities.

As our state continues to improve economically, our region has mirrored that success. Over the past five years, we’ve seen our region’s unemployment rate drop precipitously from 15.1 percent to its current standing of 6.7 percent.

Though our region has been a part of some major success stories, there’s still more work to be done. In the first quarter of 2016, our region’s counties have made headway on number of projects and estimate the upward trend set over the past five years will continue into this year.

As we progress into the future, the NESA region will continue to reinforce our standing as an agribusiness hub and we will continue to seek foreign direct investment, but our region will also explore need ideas and methods in order to stay on the cutting edge of economic development, to the betterment of the entire northeastern region of South Carolina.