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Article by: Charles Warner | Union Daily Times

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Five local officials are among the most recent graduates of a statewide economic development training program.

In a statement released Friday, the S.C. Department of Commerce (S.C. Commerce) and S.C. Economic Developers Association (SCEDA) announced that the following individuals from Union County are among the 49 state and community leaders have graduated from the S.C. Economic Development Institute (Institute):

William Roach, Jr., Union County Development Board
As a member of the Union County Economic Development Board, the Institute was very helpful and informative, Roach, who is also Superintendent of the Union County School District, said Monday. It was good to see what other areas around our state do to help promote their community and help it grow and prosper economically.

I made several connections with fellow Institute participants, that will help as our Economic Development Board tries to lead our community and help us grow and develop, he said. I look forward to using the knowledge I have obtained through the Institute to be an even better board member for the Union County Development Board.

Sonja Craig, City of Union
I think it is very good and I think anyone who is in an elected position should go, Craig said Monday about the Institute. It helps you understand what s going on in our state and surrounding states from beginning to end, from the time that a company comes in and talks to the development board in Columbia.

They break it down and figure out which area would be most suitable for this company, she said. Then they go out and look at properties that are available and they break that down and I was amazed at how they do this. I did not know how they brought the companies into certain areas. The process is very interesting and I think every elected official should go and learn how this process happens to bring businesses in.

Craig, who represents District 6 on Union City Council, said the program also looked at how cities can revive their downtown areas.

They also talked about downtown areas, how to bring those back to life with restaurants and bakeries and pubs and those type things people can go out to in the evening to enjoy themselves Craig said. Each one of the towns we went to, they were all different in the way they had developed their downtown areas, but most of them had taken areas between buildings and put in tables and chairs and walkways for people just to enjoy which I think is beautiful. I think there s a lot of that we can incoporate into out downtown area.

Vicki Morgan, City of Union
We went to four different cities and to see how they are doing things is the best way to learn, Morgan, who represents District 3 on Union City Council, said Monday. These four cities went from nothing to great downtowns. That is mine and council s goal, to improve the downtown. So this was a great learning experience and a lot of great ideas came from it. I just appreciate the opportunity to learn and work on our downtown.

Dolton Williams, Union County Development Board
I enjoyed every second of it, Williams, Administrative and Marketing Assistant for the Union County Development Board, said Monday. The first session for the Institute was actually my second day working for the development board. The purpose of this is to give everyone an overview and the reason it is beneficial is there are four different sessions and it not only gives you an opportunity to network with other economic development professionals and you get to see what other communities are doing to be successful and you can apply that to your community.

Each session is different, the first one is an overview, almost a public speaking session because you have to sell your community and you have to be comfortable speaking with people, he said. They ll have a product development and infrastructure session. One session was about community development and one was pretty much about the legal aspects of the fee-in-lieu of taxes agreement and other tax incentives.

Ray Switzer, Union County Development Board
In addition to being a member of the Union County Development Board, Switzer also serves as Vice President for Business Affairs at Spartanburg Community College. He could not be reached for comment Monday.

SC Secretary of State Bobby Hitt praised the Institute for the powerful and positive impact it has had on South Carolina s economic development efforts.

The Institute has long been a powerful tool in South Carolina s economic development arsenal, Hitt said. The success South Carolina has enjoyed in recent years can, in large part, be attributed to the remarkable amount of collaboration and teamwork that has taken place across this state. Programs like the Institute help us ensure that our team is knowledgeable, innovative and unified.

About The Institute
A collaborative effort between S.C. Commerce and SCEDA, the program is designed to arm participants with innovative development approaches for implementation in local communities. The program features a highly-interactive curriculum, allowing participants to obtain greater hands-on economic development learning experience.

Now in its 28th year, the Institute consists of quarterly, two-day sessions for which participants travel to various locations throughout the state. In addition to the final session, which took place in Sumter, sessions were also held in Newberry, Lake City and Seneca. During the sessions, attendees gained insight into issues relating to: leadership and communication skills; community development; business and industrial development; and product development. On November 9, as the final session concluded in Sumter, 49 local leaders received certificates of completion.

Institute is open to individuals from a wide variety of organizations and entities, including city, town and county councils; local economic development practitioners; county economic development boards; county school boards; regional economic development boards; utility companies; and local and state government employees. Next year s program includes sessions in Bluffton, Clinton, North Augusta and Spartanburg.

More information on this training program can be obtained by visiting www.sceda.org or contacting SCEDA at (803) 929-0305.

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