News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013
GRANITEVILLE, S.C. (WRDW) -- In Graniteville, all eyes are on the water tower that stands tall over the old mill town. Pastor Todd Sessions of the Graniteville First Baptist Church is watching too.
"The water tower basically represents the community, and the community was once thriving and it was a real solid community, as you can see though, things have closed down," he says.
From the lawn of his church, it's easy to see the closed down mills. Webs of vines are nearby too, along with lots of litter and the rusty water tower to top it all off for the town that's been through a lot.
"The train wreck was sort of the last straw with the economy and the mills," says Pastor Sessions.
But now, investors in Atlanta have formed a group called Graniteville Restoration Partners. Their first symbolic step is giving the tower a new coat of paint. The 'Gregg' symbol will be repainted along with the name of the town and the date it was established.
"The first thing you see when you come into town is this water tower," says Doug Huffer, General Manager of Recleim, the world-class recycler in the process of setting up shop in Graniteville.
Huffer is also associated with the Graniteville Restoration group.
He says the new paint job will give the town identity and pride. But the restoration group won't stop there. He says weeds will be pulled, some buildings torn down, and a new chapter will begin.
"The vision is to regenerate this town and to take these beautiful old buildings and bring them back to life," he tells News 12.
The historic Hickman Hall, a white pillared building in the center of town, will become office-space for lease and room for the historical society. Recleim corporate offices will also be located on the bottom floor. Nearby, the canal will be cleaned up and beautified. Huffer says jobs, restaurants, and businesses will likely spring along the way.
"If you look at areas like The Vista in Columbia and even some of the places in Augusta where they're restored some of the old buildings, you kind of see what can come out of it," he says.
It's all good news to Sessions.
"It gives us some hope in the community," the pastor says.
Workers are still sanding the rust from the water tower. Painting should be complete in a couple weeks.
As for Recleim, the recycler that'll create 200 jobs, Huffer says the company should start most of their hiring during the first quarter of 2014, and the plant should be up and running by the second quarter. He says things are right on schedule.