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Dean answers persistent questions on economic development

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By Travis Jenkins

Chester County Supervisor Sane Stuart said, in terms of economic development, he is frequently asked two questions. On Monday, County Economic Development Director Karlisa Dean provided definitive answers to both.

After Dean provided an update to council on progress with the Gateway Conference Center Expansion and delivered an abbreviated review of 2018, Stuart said he wanted to get answers on the record for everyone who asks him why nothing has moved into the former Springs Katherine plant or the Highway 321 Industrial Park.

Dean said she has, in fact, shown the Katherine plant (located off S.C. Highway 9) to about 20 potential clients in the past few years. There are some features that make the plant unattractive to some, though, including the size. For one, at 678,000 square feet, she said the site would require “a unique client.” The roof height is also an impediment, since most industries that would be interested in such a large facility want at least a 34-foot roof. Some she’s talked with recently actually want 40-foot roofs, but the Katherine plant’s are only 17 feet high. She said a firm from Georgia that specializes in old textile facilities and has raised the roof height many checked out the Katherine plant.

“They said to tear it down,” she said.

As with many old textile facilities, there is also a system of tunnels running underneath the plant, which represents a liability most industries are not interested in taking on. There are also issues with the transformers near the facility. The question from Stuart didn’t really deal with the Springs Close plant, but Dean said she has gotten a lot of interest on it. The hang-up there is that Springs Global will only do a lease agreement, instead of selling it outright, through 2030. Clients have asked if they’d even do a first right of refusal deal and have been told no.

As for the industrial park, Dean said the issue is purely related to location.

“They want everything to be within a six-mile radius of I-77,” Dean said. “Every mile is money to them.”

The council accepted Dean’s report as information.