Getting the official announcement that the “Great Recession” is over, I thought one would hear the popping of champange corks all across South Carolina and the rest of America. Well, I’m still listening? I don’t hear anything?
As if someone was yelling, “Hold your horses. Are you sure the recession is over!” the latest South Carolina unemployment figures have given us a wake up slap. Statewide numbers show unemployment went up .3% to 11%. Marion County comes in with a solid lead of 19.8% unemployment (don’t count on any celebrating in Marion). Counties in the Pee Dee area actually hold 7 of the top 20 spots with the highest unemployment rates.
There should be no surprise that the Pee Dee is the hardest hit area in South Carolina. Contributing to our problems are a weak manufacturing base, crime rates that are causing J. Edgar Hoover to roll over in his grave, a large uneducated workforce, and two sitting Congressmen who have totally forgotten this part of their districts (I am sure they will think about us during the next few weeks. They’ll be asking for votes).
As bad as it may seem, there is hope.
On the political front we have several big races that could reinvigorate the area. Ken Ard, running for Lt. Governor, is a successful and savvy businessman who will be a huge asset in Columbia. Jim Pratt is giving his all to oust Jim Clyburn and Mick Mulvaney is taking it to Jim Spratt. Florence and Marion Counties are poised to have a new Solicitor in Rose Mary Parham (I can see Rose Mary wearing a ten gallon hat, riding into town on her stallion to clean up the territory). I look for Phillip Lowe and Kris Crawford to return to Columbia. Last and certainly not least, Mick Zais is working to be the new SC Superintendent of Education. Bring it on, Nick. We need your help.
On the local front we have City Councils, County Councils, Chambers of Commerce, various associations and school districts who want change and are working hard for change. We have land for development and a transportation system of highways, railroad and nearby shipping to accommodate any type of manufacturer. We have a healthcare system that is second to none.
We have hope. We have desire. We have a future.
So, put the champagne back on ice and we will celebrate a new beginning on November 2. Or, if you insist, I’ll come over tonight and we’ll celebrate the fact there is hope on the horizon.