By Danny Black, President and CEO, SouthernCarolina Regional Development Alliance
BARNWELL, S.C. — Hundreds of people from our neck of the woods helped to craft the new long-term strategic action plan that will guide the South Carolina Lowcountry Promise Zone in the years ahead. Months of truly collaborative work provide us with a detailed map of what we need to do and how we must work together to reduce poverty by growing jobs, improving education, reducing crime and building more opportunities for citizens who live in the six counties of the Southern Carolina region.
Last year, you may recall, our area received a coveted Promise Zone designation from the federal government to encourage local governments, state agencies and area organizations to apply for federal grants and loans. Because we were named the South Carolina Lowcountry Promise Zone, applications benefitting our residents get special preferences, which should infuse significant federal dollars here to go with the millions of capital investment that the SouthernCarolina Alliance has been successful in bringing here for the last 20 years.
As we met with our 40 Promise Zone partners and supporters to craft our plan to move forward, we’ve already had success. Since September, our Promise Zone has attracted more than $11.6 million in new federal grants and loans. At the same time, the Alliance has catalyzed more than $400 million in capital investment that will create more than 250 good jobs.
Now, it’s time for more hard work by implementing our strategic plan to bring more prosperity to Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties. For us to achieve success and transform our region, the Promise Zone will focus on four broad, long-term objectives to drive progress:
- Development of high-speed broadband Internet networks to provide access to citizens and to help make the region more attractive to business growth.
- Attracting public and private investment to develop a shovel-ready mega-site for industrial development in targeted clusters to develop jobs.
- Building a sustainability culture to take advantage of regional assets, particularly in agriculture, technology, tourism and energy.
- Transforming public education and health care through innovation, collaboration and hard work.
But that’s not all. There are near-term projects that the SouthernCarolina Alliance and our Promise Zone partners and supporters are working on now to jumpstart transformational change. In addition to efforts to expand high-speed broadband Internet and develop a shovel-ready, industrial mega-site, four additional near-term projects include:
- Investing in a regional Forensic Lab and Training Center to focus crime-reduction efforts.
- Creating a broad Learning/Vocational Center of Excellence to serve regional education and workforce training needs.
- Building a Medical Center of Excellence to deliver more accessible, high-quality medical services in underserved communities.
- Establishing a Technology Village and Landing Pad in a central business location as a regional technology headquarters.
Our strategic plan, which can be viewed in full here, includes several other “Innovation Projects” as well as goals for each of eight targeted workgroups of partners and supporters who are expected to meet monthly to drive change.
We’ve identified game-changing projects in the Promise Zone that will transform our region if we continue to work together to use the blessings offered by the designation. But we’ve got to put in the time to do the work together. By focusing on the goals of this plan, we can reduce poverty. We can create more jobs. We can improve education. We can reduce crime. And we can build more opportunities for all of our citizens.
Danny Black is president and CEO of the SouthernCarolina Regional Development Alliance, the lead organization of the new Promise Zone. You can keep up with what’s happening in the Zone by signing up for news updates on this website.