Recognizing the need for enhanced infrastructure as a statewide issue in 1996, the South Carolina General Assembly approved The Rural Development Act in a special session on June 27 that year. It was signed into law by David Beasley, who was Governor at the time, on July 2, 1996. It quickly became what is largely considered to be the centerpiece for rural economic growth in South Carolina.
The provisions of the Rural Development Act allow electric utilities in South Carolina that pay license taxes under South Carolina Code Title 12, Chapter 20, Section 12-20-100, to invest these funds in economic development at the local level. Since economic development decisions are consistently and most effectively made at the local level, it makes sense for utilities to concentrate RDA dollars at home.
Horry Electric Cooperative is among the utilities in South Carolina able to apply for a credit of up to $300,000 against license tax liability for amounts paid in cash to provide infrastructure improvements to economic development projects. Either way, the $300,000 in RDA funds come out of the utility’s yearly budget.
“We have a choice,” explained James P. “Pat” Howle, executive vice president and CEO of Horry Electric Cooperative when presenting Horry County Council with a check in the amount of $300,000 earmarked specifically for the spec building at the Cool Springs Industrial Park in 2011. “We could send the money to Columbia or we can keep it in Horry County where it can help our local economy.”
The local investment in the Cool Springs Industrial Park recently paid off for Horry County with the announcement by Governor Nikki Haley and Congressman Tom Rice that PTR Industries will be relocating its business there. In a report published by WMBF News after the ribbon cutting last week, the owner of PTR Industries indicated they would be doubling their rifle manufacturing capacity. While they have not officially posted any job openings, the PTR Industries website does include a list of job openings that will LIKELY be posted. The list includes engineers, machinists, assembly staff, gunsmiths, maintenance, office and security personnel.
The language of the Rural Development Act also prevents a utility from using RDA funds to finance construction of its own facilities. In every instance, the dollars must be used to underwrite road improvements, water and sewer line extensions, spec-building construction, or the like.