Upgraded look spurs hope for new investment at industrial park

The lettering isn’t in place yet, but a new sign stands at the entrance to the Batesburg-Leesville industrial park, beckoning potential new tenants. (Staff photo by Tony Baughman)

 

Community leaders hope the facelift at the industrial site on the east edge of Batesburg-Leesville will pay off with more firms calling it home soon.

The improvements include a new sign at the entrance off U.S. 1 as well as 23 more street lights on its interior lanes. Those changes “offer a nicer experience for the right company,” Lexington County economic development director Sarah Johnson said.

It’s the latest effort to boost the image of the 189-acre site that has attracted two new occupants recently, joining the only one that came 15 years ago.

“This can only enhance opportunities,” said Mike Taylor, president of the Batesburg-Leesville Chamber of Commerce. “Everything is in place for things to happen. We’ve got the parts now that are what we need.”

But some community leaders are counseling patience, saying it will take time to bring in companies that add dozens of jobs locally, as has been long wanted.

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” County Councilman Larry Brigham of Batesburg-Leesville said.

Mr. Taylor is among town leaders hoping the arrival of a new asphalt plant and specialty machine bearings firm will spur more interest in the site. That momentum, they say, is important even though the combined payrolls of the pair are unlikely to exceed 10 employees initially.

Officials acknowledge that the site’s location 10 miles from Interstate 20 on the western edge of the Columbia area remains a deterrent for some companies who want convenient shipping. The widening of U.S. 1 from two to four lanes — a project due to start in a few months — could help ease that challenge, Mr. Taylor said.

Mr. Taylor also dreams of more upgrades at the site, mainly addition of a building shell so that an incoming firm could open faster. “The ability to offer a company a way to get up and running sooner is imperative,” he said.

The idea is under consideration, Mr. Brigham said. “Hopefully, over time that will take place,” he said. With the newly-signed tenants, 11 of the 14 tracts in the site are now available. “We want companies there just as much as the community does,” Ms. Johnson said. “It takes time to foster industry that this (site) meets their needs.”

Local leaders are effective in courting firms that look at settling there, she added. “There is a strong sense of community,” she said. “We could not ask for anything better.”

For instance, town leaders set development guidelines for the site in cooperation with county leaders who own and market it.

The site is one of three — others are in Chapin and near Cayce — that county leaders promote for industrial expansion in the 758-square-mile county. “We submit it for everything we can,” Ms. Johnson said.

All the efforts underway will pay off eventually, Mr. Brigham said. Selling the site to companies looking to expand or relocate is “a methodical work in progress,” he said.

Story by Tim Flach / Published December 26, 2019