Grant winners have big plans

Eight cities and towns across the state received $25,000 Hometown Economic Development Grants from the Municipal Association. The grants will allow the cities to implement projects that will make a positive impact on the quality of life in their communities.

An awards committee comprised of former local government and state agency professionals evaluated the 76 grant applications. Cities and towns receiving a grant are required to provide matching funds, submit reports about the progress and successes of each project, and provide financial details of how the grant funds were used.

    The City of Beaufort's award will support a new public-private partnership to establish and manage the Beaufort Digital Corridor, described as "a community-sourced initiative to attract, nurture and promote the region's tech economy." In conjunction with the Charleston Digital Corridor, Beaufort's corridor will serve as a recruiter for high-tech companies, facilitate education and training for professionals, and help guide students and entrepreneurs seeking a career in technology.

    The City of Clinton will hire an architectural firm to create a professional master plan and strategic vision for the Industrial Supply Company warehouse complex, which occupies an entire city block in downtown Clinton. Because the city owns a portion of the site, future development will involve public-private partnerships.

    Following the success of similar projects in other cities, the City of Gaffney will fund the Gaffney Main Street Challenge Competition to recruit new businesses. The Gaffney Business Generator project, Gaffney Main Street and the Gaffney Downtown Merchants Association program will all assist with the city's program.

    The City of Manning will take the next step in the city's Retail Recruiting Initiative by hiring a professional services firm to help the city develop a retail recruitment strategy, marketing data and trade brochures for use at retail recruiting conferences.

    The Town of Ridgeway intends to "Paint the Town Red with Revitalization" and restore and repair iconic structures in the town, including the World's Smallest Police Station, its famous telephone booth and Ridgeway Arch, which anchors the proposed Ridgeway Park.

    Known as the gateway to the ACE Basin, the Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary is the second-largest municipal park in the United States. The City of Walterboro will use its grant funds to develop a city-owned building to use as an interpretive Wildlife Sanctuary Discovery Center.

    The adjoining towns of West Pelzer and Pelzer will use their grant funds in partnership to develop a Main Street Corridor Master Plan and Economic Impact Analysis for both towns. The towns will use the plan as a tool to recruit business to their downtowns.

    The "Best Look, Best Talent Project" in the Town of Williamston will support a façade-improvement grant program and the Mustang Alley feasibility study in support of the creation of an event-oriented alleyway. Envision Williamston, the Palmetto Business Association and the SC National Heritage Corridor will also provide resources or in-kind assistance to support the city's grant.

The details of the 2017 grant program will be announced in May.