By James T. Hammond
Published Sept. 12, 2011
When Navistar acquired the Northpoint Boulevard diesel engine fuel injector plant from Continental Diesel Systems, Richland County officials went into high gear along with state and regional economic development authorities to ensure the manufacturing plant remained a key Midlands employer.
For Richland County Administrator Milton Pope, it became a personal quest to keep the plant here.
When all was said and done, Navistar not only kept the plant in Richland County, but also rebranded it as Pure Power, increased its investment and added jobs.
The effort signified a guiding principle of Pope’s economic development goals: take care of your existing businesses first.
While keeping Pure Power in place may have seemed seamless to the public, it required a lot of work to ensure the manufacturer not only survived in the county, but could thrive there, Pope said.
While neighboring Lexington County gets a lot of attention for its manufacturing base, recently highlighted by the announcement of a major expansion at Michelin, Richland County quietly co-exists as a manufacturing power in its own right.
According to 2007 data compiled by Miley, Gallo & Associates LLC, Richland County actually had slightly more manufacturing jobs (10,434) than Lexington County (10,314).
To put a finer point on his economic development goals, Pope earlier this year hired P. Nelson Lindsay to be the county’s first economic development director. Lindsay served since 1997 as Kershaw County’s economic development director. Such moves attract attention, Pope said.
“After the announcement about Nelson Lindsay, I had a call from a man in Oklahoma about locating distribution centers,” Pope said.
Pope said he aims to continue a long-standing relationship with the Central SC Alliance with Lindsay as the point man.
“That relationship will be strengthened by the county having its own economic development office,” Pope said. “A lot of what we do gets overlooked because we already have a strong manufacturing base here.”