Economic Development schedules "special announcement"

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By Travis Jenkins

The name “Project 1641” won’t be in use for too much longer.

On Monday, Chester County Economic Development Director Karlisa Dean sent out a public invitation touting “a special announcement” that will take place next Tuesday, July 11 at 10:30 a.m. at the Gateway Conference Center in Richburg. Dean confirmed that it relates to Project 1641 and that the company behind the codename will be revealed at that time.

In May, Chester County Council voted to allow Dean to enter negotiations with the as-yet unnamed company. The council has engaged in closed-door discussions on the project in each meeting since that time. This past Friday, the council held a special-called meeting with the only order of business being approving “an ordinance authorizing the execution and delivery of a fee in lieu of tax agreement by and between Chester County and Project 1641, the inclusion of certain real property located in Chester County in a multicounty industrial park; the provision of credits against fee in lieu of tax payments; the execution and delivery of such documents as may be necessary to effect the intent of this ordinance and other matters related thereto.”

That was passed unanimously, though Councilman Alex Oliphant recused himself from the vote (and from any previous discussion of the matter), because of a possible conflict of interests.

The council was slated to take up second reading of that ordinance at Monday’s regular meeting and will carry out a third reading and public hearing sometime before next Tuesday’s announcement.

Chester County has been the home of several big industrial announcements in recent years. Giti Tires announced in 2014 that it would invest over $500 million in a Chester County facility (the company’s first North American plant) and eventually employ 1,700 people. Giti expects to produce its first tire in that plant later this year.

Dean said she could not offer any particulars on 1641 at this point, but did point out the importance of manufacturing to Chester County and just how much growth and job investment there has been recently.

“Eleven percent of South Carolina's total employment in 2016 was in the manufacturing industry (and) 27.3 percent of the employment in Chester County is in manufacturing. Forty-one existing manufacturers announced expansions in 2016. Nine of those manufacturers made 10 announcements and were from Chester County. (There were) 47,000 new manufacturing jobs announced between 2011-and 2016 (and) 2,821 of those were in Chester County,” Dean said in an email.

There is no significance or hints to what sort of industry may be coming Chester’s way hidden in the codename. The first two numbers simply denote the year the project was initiated and the second two numbers indicate the order in which projects have been undertaken. So, “1641” only means that the project started in 2016 and was the 41st project of the year.

The county is working some other projects as well. At its last meeting of June, Chester County Council discussed three projects in executive session: the aforementioned Project 1641, Project 1725 and Project 1702. The council voted to authorize Dean to “proceed with negotiations” with 1725 and 1702.