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New program means new jobs

Posted: April 24, 2013 - 12:05am
File photo  The Carolina Pottery home furnishings and decor store expected to open this summer will bring 30 to 40 new jobs to Columbia County, and an announced Urban Outfitters call center will bring up to 400.   File photo 
The Carolina Pottery home furnishings and decor store expected to open this summer will bring 30 to 40 new jobs to Columbia County, and an announced Urban Outfitters call center will bring up to 400.
File photo The Carolina Pottery home furnishings and decor store expected to open this summer will bring 30 to 40 new jobs to Columbia County, and an announced Urban Outfitters call center will bring up to 400.
File photo The Carolina Pottery home furnishings and decor store expected to open this summer will bring 30 to 40 new jobs to Columbia County, and an announced Urban Outfitters call center will bring up to 400.

Quite often when government and quasi-government boards and agencies work on programs for tax breaks and grants, it can look like so much gobbledegook to the average citizen.

In fact, that seemed to be the case a few years ago, when voters turned down a proposal to create an enterprise zone in Martinez that would have implemented a taxing scheme to help clean up that tired urban business area. Confusion about the proposal overwhelmed any support, and it failed.

Then, with a different approach, Columbia County’s Development Authority managed to win state approval for the area to be designated as a state “opportunity zone,” with businesses eligible for tax credits for hiring additional employees.

None of that is something the average citizen likely cares much about. But here’s where it matters:

Since the creation of that opportunity zone just a few months ago, Columbia County is getting ready to land as many as 440 new jobs.

Some 30-40 of those new jobs are at Carolina Pottery, which will soon refill the closed Kmart in West Town Shopping Center. The other 400, announced last week, will go to an Urban Outfitters call center in the empty Mike’s Furniture store around the corner. That center will start up later this summer with about 200 jobs, and then is expected to double that number during the next five years.

“I think as we move forward the opportunity zone will play a big impact in companies coming here,” said Robbie Bennett, the executive director of Columbia County’s Development Authority. Bennett wasn’t yet on board when the authority put the opportunity zone in place, but part of his job is to inform potential new businesses about it. (His predecessor, Troy Post, deserves credit for putting so much work into getting the opportunity zone in place.)

These newest jobs aren’t big-salary positions – but they matter, especially so many of them in such a relatively short time. It has a ripple effect of improving the overall economy, and it hedges somewhat against fears of losses from any federal retraction at Fort Gordon.

All those government programs might seem as incomprehensible as federal health care reform. But more jobs? That’s something we can all understand.

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