By Danny Black, President and CEO, SouthernCarolina Alliance
DEC. 25, 2015 — From Allendale County to Jasper County and all points in between, there is much for people in our part of the Palmetto State to be thankful for this year. One reason is that we live in the new federally-designated South Carolina Lowcountry Promise Zone, which has already begun to bring new opportunities for our area.
SouthernCarolina Alliance, our area’s economic development organization, is working daily to attract new companies to our six counties and helping our existing industries with expansions. As SouthernCarolina Alliance shares our exciting story with prospects across the nation and world, the Promise Zone’s 40 partners and supporters are applying for grants and working hard to make our story even better. This combined effort is generating a new excitement for our region that’s going to transform our future.
Since the Promise Zone designation was awarded in late April, partners and supporters of this new effort to stimulate our growth have applied for more than two dozen federal grants and have received more than $9 million in loans and grants. And more is on the way.
Meanwhile, SouthernCarolina Alliance has worked to seal deals that since September have announced 153 jobs and a whopping $312 million in capital investment to the six counties of our lower part of the state.
While the numbers of our region reflect success, perhaps the most heartwarming benefit of the Promise Zone designation is how people from here and across the state now are working together better and in new ways to help us move forward like never before. Since July, we’ve coordinated town hall meetings and planning sessions with more than 1,000 residents and partners to craft a long-term strategic plan to guide our efforts. We also offer a helpful website to allow residents to keep up with what’s happening (www.scpromisezone.org) , and we’re working on spreading the word to more businesses and organizations about these positive efforts.
We’re thankful that our innovative proposals and partnerships enabled us to win one of only two rural Promise Zone designations in the country. For the next 10 years, our counties, municipalities, and organizations in the region will have the opportunity for preferential scoring on our grant applications to the participating federal agencies. This could give us the ability to meet our infrastructure, brick-and-mortar and workforce training goals and to make significant strides in completing projects that will change the course for the future of our communities.
Our Promise Zone teams are working hard to move the dial by finding grants to improve the foundations of our economy in areas from education and housing to healthcare and finding access to more capital for growth.
The South Carolina Lowcountry Promise Zone is all about building opportunities collaboratively. But just as importantly, individual organizations continue to work on their own to apply for grants that will grow jobs, improve education, reduce crime, leverage private capital, create more affordable housing and improve healthcare.
In this season of giving, good cheer and thankfulness, let’s give a big pat on the back to leaders throughout our region in the public, private, nonprofit and faith-based sectors for jobs well done. Then let’s get back to work to create better and more opportunities for the thousands of people who live in and around South Carolina’s Promise Zone.
Danny Black is president and CEO of SouthernCarolina Alliance, the regional economic development nonprofit that is the lead organization for the new South Carolina Lowcountry Promise Zone.