Downtown Sumter's newest, most modern-designed building is open for business, and the people who have set up shop within its walls are hoping that means all of Sumter County will welcome more business.
Sumter Economic Development, a group made up …
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Sumter Economic Development, a group made up of a public-private partnership charged with bringing more business and industry into the county, raising the per capita income, supporting well-paying job growth and increasing the quality of life for residents - both old and new - celebrated a grand opening on Thursday to show off the space, to thank the stakeholders and advocates who helped bring it into existence and to share with the community their vision for the future.
"Sumter has become a very progressive city," said Sumter County Council Chairman James McCain, who is also an ex-officio development board member.
The building itself has received its share of questions for the design from some who did not approve of the modern structure in the middle of historic downtown Sumter with its slanted beams, but it stood tall on Thursday, its second-floor wall-to-ceiling windows giving a view of Main Street and up and down Liberty Street, its balcony standing over a newly sprung grass courtyard next to J. O'Grady's and Centennial Plaza.
Greg Thompson, chairman of the development board and president and CEO of Thompson Construction Group, said the slanted beams seen on the outside of the building were chosen to represent the letter "W."
"An 'I' is isolated," he said, elaborating that the choice instead means "we." "We're at the address of Sumter's future located in Sumter's past."
He said companies look about 50 years into the future of any place they prospect for locations, and having this centrally located building with space to meet and work that is close to the amenities of downtown will entice future investment.
"It's a totally different perspective, a perception-changer," said Jay Schwedler, executive director of Sumter Economic Development, which also represents Lee County through TheLINK. "It's an opportunity for us to show the world that rural South Carolina can compete on a global scale for opportunities that present themselves in terms of business and industry."
Schwedler said Sumter and Lee counties have seen $1.4-$1.5 billion in investment over the last eight to 10 years.
"And that equates jobs," he said. "The general population just sees growth occur organically. They don't realize there are so many moving parts to make successful economic development occur."
He said that includes education, infrastructure, things to do, well-paying jobs.
"At the end of the day, it's about raising per-capita income and increasing our citizens' wealth, increasing job opportunities," he said.
That's what Schwedler and the rest of his team and those involved in the bringing of the new Economic Development to be say they are aiming for and that the building will provide just one more asset toward that goal.
"When they get here and see what the community has to offer," Schwedler said, "this vantage point just gives them another view to know that we're here to do business with them."
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