Bamberg County Council learned what an economic development group is doing to help bring jobs and industrial development to Bamberg and the six other counties it serves during an April 7 council meeting.

SouthernCarolina Regional Development Alliance Project Manager Garrett Dragano gave a report, stating that the economic development group had 75 active projects and leads over its seven-county service area.

SCA serves Bamberg, Allendale, Barnwell, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties.

“For the county, we have currently 12 active projects and leaders. We have submitted seven properties and generated four site visits from that. We’ll have a couple more this week, actually,” Dragano said last week.

He said he has been working on supporting existing industry in the county, including with training assistance programs.

“Of course, we are continuing to work on infrastructure improvement to the Wolf industrial site, which is a 150-acre tract of land over in Denmark that we’ve had a lot of interest in, only sometimes the infrastructure might hold that back a little bit because of the cost to put that in. So we’re working on trying to develop that so that way that won’t hold the companies back as much,” Dragano said.

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He said SC Oak to Barrel LLC is “up and running” with approximately 13 employees currently at the site.

The company has announced it would invest $6.8 million and create 122 new jobs at the former Black Water Barrels plant at 3914 Bamberg Highway.

“I just want to remind everyone and also the public that that doesn’t mean 122 jobs now. That’s a five-year span,” he said.

Dragano also gave an update on Project Canvas, which was anticipated to make a $400,000 investment and create 80 jobs in Denmark.

“Unfortunately, that project will not be coming to any fruition right now. We are thinking that is mainly due to finances of the company that was looking at coming here. There are a couple of other things that play into it,” he said, noting that “negative feedback” from people in the community was among them.

In other business, SCA Vice President of Marketing Kay Maxwell introduced Gracie Hiers as SCA’s new regional beautification marketing coordinator.

“I’m super excited about this opportunity,” Hiers said.

Maxwell said, “Gracie’s going to be with us for 24 months working through a pilot program that we have with PalmettoPride.”

As part of the SCA’s beautification efforts, she said a long-promised mural would be placed on the historic Brooker Hardware LLC building at the corner of U.S. Highways 78 and 301 across from Hardee’s in Bamberg.

“It’s been a partnership between the county, the City of Bamberg and SouthernCarolina Alliance. The mural that’s going up will depict a scene from the Edisto River,” Maxwell said.

County Treasurer Alice Johnson gave the February financial report, stating the county had $529,983.14 in income and expenditures of $959,761.32, leaving a negative balance of $429,778.18. When the positive bank balance at the end of January ($1,515,230.09)) was added, the county’s regular account stood at a positive $1,085,451.91.

County Finance Director T.M. Thomas reported that the county’s general fund had year-to-date revenues as of the end of February of $6,329,768, with expenses coming in at $5,271,145, for a positive general fund balance of $1,058,623.

Administrator’s report

Administrator Joey Preston reported that he was not pleased with the results of a broadband internet survey the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff is conducting to gather information from citizens on their desire to obtain residential high-speed broadband. Out of 6,830 households, only 46 had responded as of the April 7 council meeting.

“That’s not good. … We’ve got a $12 million grant application that’s out there right now. We’ve worked hard for the last five years to get to that point. We’re teetering in getting it. But you know what? That would help us get the grant that we need to go into those areas right now,” Preston said.

The survey can be found online at

Preston updated council on Palmetto Rural Telephone’s work installing broadband service in the lower part of the county, including miles of work completed along Ashton, Pocketville, Orange Grove and Lodge roads. Installations along Hadwin Road are set to begin April 15 and along Clear Pond Road on May 1.

He also reported on the county courthouse renovation work, noting that courthouse staff, including clerk of court, family court and general sessions court offices, have been moved to a modular unit located in the parking lot of the county detention center.

“I want to publicly say thank you to the staff of the courthouse for helping us make this a smooth transition. One of the next steps is the records that will go to archives will go, the old furniture that remained in the building will be restored and then put away. We’re going to put that back into the courthouse once it’s finished,” said Preston, who also thanked the Bamberg Board of Public Works for their help.

He said the county’s transformation of its defunct hospital into a multi-service complex was also moving forward.

“The project manager says it’s going well. The month of September is probably going to be the time we can open up the veteran’s affairs office down there, we can open up the health department, and we can open up the law enforcement center,” Preston said.

“While that’s being opened, we’re still going to have construction going on for the voter registration and election commission (offices) … (and) for the emergency operations center. The coroner will be able to probably move in before September. … I’m not sure the morgue will be done by then. You need a morgue. We’ve got all kinds of issues by not having a morgue in this county,” he said.

The administrator reported that he also hoped that the county’s millage rate would not go up too high with the consolidation of the former Bamberg School Districts 1 and 2.

“I do know the state’s going to provide some cash up front to help with some of the millage, but I don’t know that it’s going to be that much of an impact. So we’ll just have to wait and see what it is. … It’d be nice to see another five- to 10-mill reduction. It would help us out in a lot of ways. I don’t want people to get false expectations about things. We (the county) get blamed for 100 percent of the tax notice, and we’re 25 percent of it,” he said.

In other business:

• Council approved a resolution to adopt the county’s natural hazard mitigation plan.

Emory Langston, the community development manager at the Lower Savannah Council of Governments, said, “Every five years FEMA and SCEMD request an update of the hazard mitigation plan for your county. … This is the updated version, it is a mandate by the state of South Carolina and FEMA. If Bamberg County should want to apply for certain grant funds, this update has to be in place.”

• Sh’Kur Francis, coordinator of Keep Bamberg County Beautiful, reported on the group’s activities throughout the county.

A Great American Cleanup in Bamberg County is scheduled for 8 a.m. to noon Friday-Saturday April 22-23. Registration and supply pickup will be held at both the County Courthouse Annex Gazebo and Denmark City Hall.

Individuals can also register online at For more information, contact KBCB at 803-747-9466 or email at

“We have recently been awarded about $7,000 in grant money from Keep South Carolina Beautiful/PalmettoPride. That grant money will go to helping us buy litter supplies and other things to assist us with communitywide cleanups,” Francis said.

Contact the writer: or 803-533-5534. Follow “Good News with Gleaton” on Twitter at @DionneTandD

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