Laurens County Council is beginning to hear about construction projects that could be financed through a Capital Project Sales Tax.
It would have to receive voters’ approval, and no referendum has been scheduled. But an Agriculture Center and a Career Center are two big-ticket items that could result from an extra penny or two sales tax levied in the county, or they could be constructed with existing money or bonded indebtedness.
Clinton High School Agriculture Instructor Annette Bodie and County Recreation Director Andy Howard presented the Ag Center idea to the county council Tuesday night.
Bodie said, “There is nowhere in this county to have a horse show, or livestock show, and there is no place for people to house their animals overnight. This type of center would bring income to the county. Horse people spend money.”
The proposed Laurens County Agriculture Complex would be located on a county-owned, 25-acre tract at Calvin Bridges Road and Torrington Road. Maintenance would be done by the Laurens County Parks and Recreation Department.
In their presentation, Bodie and Howard said building an agriculture center would be “investing in 4H and FFA members ... they are our future leaders.”
The presentation said, “Our current parks and recreation facilities cater to the youth that are involved in athletics. Facilities that offer areas for showing livestock and horses would bring in people to our county that would spend money in our county at hotels, restaurants, etc.”
A multi-purpose arena could be used for horse shows, livestock shows, training (Master Gardeners, 4H Clinics, FFA contests), hosting events such as rodeos and livestock judging contests, exhibit areas, dog shows and Clemson Extension training areas, the presentation said.
This idea has 11 letters of support that were presented to the Laurens County Council.
School Superintendents Dr. Stephen Peters and Dr. David O’Shields presented the Career Center idea to the council.
“Why does Laurens County need a career center?” their presentation said. “(It) increases economic development by ensuring qualified workforce availability, promotes program expansion of course offerings that presently we cannot offer, creates multiple pathways for a variety of careers and promotes more specialized training in entry-level workforce, (and) enhances the quality of life for communities, school districts and families.”
The proposed Career-CATE Center would be located on county-owned property at the back of the Professional Park, behind Prisma Health-Laurens County Memorial Hospital, between Clinton and Laurens.
In their presentation, Peters and O’Shields said, each day, 6,982 people leave Laurens County to work in Greenville County. Just 2,241 leave Greenville to work in Laurens County. Also, 1,805 leave Laurens County to work in Greenwood, and 1,619 leave Laurens County to work in Spartanburg County. In addition to keeping local workers local, a career center could train replacement workers; 22.5 percent of workers in all industries are older than 55; almost 50 percent are over 45.
The presentation said, “We must better prepare our students for the future by making sure they are ready to enter the workforce with employability skills and credentials. Studies have shown that students having opportunities for exposure to career and technical courses are more likely to graduate from high school, find suitable employment, and earn higher wages.”
In addition to these presentations, council heard about a Vision 2040 project, proposed by County Administrator Jon Caime.
The council meets the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month, 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers, second floor of the historic courthouse in downtown Laurens.