More jobs coming to Barnwell Co., helping struggling economy rise

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011

BARNWELL, S.C. -- The factory floors are barren now, but in a few months, they'll be filled with machines and workers.

Kevin Bradley will be making road cones and safety clothes, but he'll also be rebuilding Barnwell County's economy.

Because he found the right building there, it'll only take $150,000 to be up and running.

"We're doing everything as fast as we can, but, you know, we have plans and, you know, we're here to stay," said Bradley, the CEO of Sasco Safety, LLC, a division of which is A&K Textiles.

He's a businessman who's worked all over the world. He was running his company out of Alexandria, Egypt, but he's packing it up and making the long voyage to Barnwell, S.C.

"I believe that here in South Carolina, and with the people in Barnwell, we will get the productivity we need," he said.

Barnwell Mayor Edward Lemon says several companies have announced they're coming to his county in the past few months.

"We're rising up like a phoenix out of the ashes!" he exclaimed.

It comes after a troubled past for Barnwell County. Back in 2009, Hanesbrands, Milliken and Allied Air closed their doors in Barnwell.

"We lost about, I think it was around 800 jobs ... within six months of each other, so to get some of these back, is a real boom," Lemon said.

And many there say that boom will soon be felt.

"2012 is when you're going to see these job opportunities really come to fruition and people start getting a chance to go back to work," said Marty Martin, executive director of the Economic Development Commision in Barnwell County.

Martin says they're using all the empty buildings to attract companies like Bradley's.

"We were fortunate that there were some projects out there that found these buildings to be very suitable for what they needed," Martin said.

Unemployment in Barnwell County was close to 20 percent a few years ago, but now it's creeping closer to the state average.

"If everything is successful, we could be in the region of 200 jobs," Bradley said.

He says he wants to hire locals and there could be more jobs on the horizon for his company, too.

Martin says the current unemployment rate for Barnwell County is right around 15 percent and that there may be some other announcements soon. In fact, we're expecting to hear something from Blackville in the next week or so.

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