Community Impact by an Actual Community
By Dave Eldridge
We get excited to see headlines in The Journal when one of our great manufacturing partners announces a multi-million dollar expansion and financial investment or when we welcome a new employer to Oconee County.
We realize these positive announcements foretell new job opportunities, growth in the tax base, and the welcoming new industrial neighbors to our community.
But do we ever think about the importance of the neighborhoods and communities that also drive economic impact in Oconee County? Kevin McCracken, general manager of Keowee Key, recently spoke about this during our monthly Business Forum, where speakers present topics of interest to business, government, education and law enforcement leaders.
Keowee Key was developed almost 50 years ago during the same time frame three current major employers came to Oconee County; Itron Corporation, Koyo Bearings and Schneider Electric. For those of us who were around then, we remember them by different company names like Sagamo Electric, Torrington Bearings and Square D.
It may come as a surprise to learn that Keowee Key has more residents than the employees of these three businesses combined. Think of the economic impact that these three companies and Keowee Key together have had on the economy of the county for almost 50 years, changing lives with work opportunities and providing the increased tax base to support job skill training, improved education, expanded medical access and social improvements.
In addition, Keowee Key’s population of 3,500 residents is bigger than half of the towns in South Carolina. The residents recently approved an investment of $14 million to upgrade the community facilities and did it with an 85 percent vote of confidence. What elected official would not love that margin? That investment speaks volumes about what the Keowee Key residents think of being a part of Oconee County. Its residents are estimated to have purchased more than $53,000,000 of goods and services last year, supporting local and state small business contractors, service providers, retailers, restaurants and the like.
Equally as important is how the county benefits from nearly 100,000 hours each year of volunteer efforts with local charities, service clubs, educational organizations and medical support. Resident involvement ranges from teaching kids to read, to supporting local shelters, food pantries and organizations that help struggling families, like Ripple of One.
Residents have served as volunteer firefighters and first responders and raised money for important community social services like the new YMCA and Hospice of the Foothills. Those are just a few organizations the residents serve as valuable volunteers. In fact, a representative of the GHS – Oconee Memorial Hospital said at the meeting that they couldn’t operate at the level they do without the hours volunteered by Keowee Key residents.
Dave Eldridge is the Director of Small Business Development for the Oconee Economic Alliance. Learn more at investoconeesc.com