By Andrew Cripps, CEO of Effingham County Chamber of Commerce
Sewon America announced this spring the largest-ever private investment in the City of Rincon, more than $300 million in a new car parts plant expected to bring 740 good-paying manufacturing jobs. The announcement reminds us about the benefit to residents of our county’s responsible and forward-thinking approach to growth. The Sewon plant and other industrial projects coming to Effingham County will have a ripple effect on prosperity for residents and business alike.
The strong growth in Effingham in the past decade shows that our county doesn’t need to be a bedroom community for Savannah. We can sustain both a hometown feel and big city opportunity here.
While not every proposed project is beneficial, it seems some people have taken an attitude of total opposition to all development. No doubt, many opponents have a sincere desire to preserve our quality of life and natural beauty. But some opposition is fueled by misinformation. For example, some have claimed that warehouses in Effingham could be used to store toxic or radioactive material, which is completely false. Developers and government officials have also been baselessly accused of being uncaring and even corrupt.
We understand the emotions that come with busy commutes and seeing new businesses replace wooded lots along Highway 21. But our county’s future depends on thoughtful planning and foresight to ensure that our growth reflects the needs of all residents; needs that include good-paying jobs close to home, as well as safe and convenient roads.
Our county thrives, and our taxes are lowest, when we have a balance of commercial and residential development, and that’s what county leaders have been aiming to achieve. Years ago, they had the foresight to designate specific areas for industrial and manufacturing sites to minimize the impact on residents. The Sewon announcement is, in part, a result of that planning.
A 2021 study by the Georgia Tech Center for Economic Development Research shows that for every dollar a local government spends on services, residential properties consume $1.16 in services, while commercial and industrial properties receive only $0.30. Even excluding the cost of schools, residential properties do not fully cover the costs of government services, while commercial properties make up the difference.
More jobs within Effingham can mean less commuter traffic leaving the county at rush hour. Harshly restricting commercial development will force even more residents to commute elsewhere. And blocking new residential development will starve local businesses of the qualified workforce they need.
The Effingham County Chamber of Commerce developed its Smart Growth definition last year to encourage a balanced and responsible vision for our future. It defines Smart Growth as “strategically planned and designed in a manner that considers land uses, access to and preservation of its natural beauty, its close-knit hometown identity, and transportation/ infrastructure needs.”
We stand by the definition and have launched a program called “Effingham Forward” to explain the benefits of well-planned growth and to counteract misinformation.
Why is the Chamber of Commerce promoting Effingham Forward? Because the chamber consists of business people, community leaders, and residents who – as much as anyone – cherish and want to protect our county’s prosperity, natural resources and its friendly, small town quality. Our goals are to build pride among residents in our vibrant county, and promote awareness of the benefits of intelligent, responsible growth.
More information about the benefits of well-planned growth can be found at www.effinghamcounty.com/forward. You can share your own thoughts there about moving Effingham Forward. Or contact us at (912) 754-3301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.