The town of Hardeeville in Jasper County and the county itself are on the cusp of a wave of growth only witnessed by a handful of communities. Hardeeville has a population of around 2,300 and the county around 23,000,and 2,500 of those are currently unemployed. But that is about to change. One study shows the creation of 28,000 new jobs, in a county that currently has a workforce of less than 11,000, and that’s only connected to one of several projects, the creation of a new interstate exit.
Two factors are coming into play at the same time, plans for construction of the Jasper County Port (the Jasper Ocean Terminal) on the Savannah River, and also growth pressure from the Hilton Head and Bluffton areas.
Ted Felder is Director of Economic Development for the City of Hardeeville. He says the projects surrounding the port area , specifically, involve a new exit on Interstate 95, to be called “Exit 3,” also a new four-lane connector between the exit and Highway 17, and another connector on the north side connecting Exit 3 with Highway 321. Felder says that’s important in its own way. “For the northern side, for those residents in southern Beaufort County who want to see an alternate route, including for hurricane evacuation, they will have one once Highway 278-A or the Bluffton Parkway is connected to 321 via that East-west connector. So no matter which way you look at it, this is a regionally significant project and it needs to happen.”
The city is working with Jasper County government to find the money for all of this, all totaled almost $120 million in development. That will come in the form of South Carolina Infrastructure Bank financing, for which Hardeeville, Jasper County and a private developer have a $41 million local match. Felder says that private company with the local match is Stadford, a land developer, which has purchased 5100 acres. International Paper originally sold the property to Copper Station Holdings and it ended up in the hands of John Reed Development who sold it to Stadford more than a year ago.
A study paid for by Hardeeville and Jasper County shows remarkable growth, $1.7 billion. “The total wages in Jasper County in 2007 were $266 million. The new exit and related projects will generate $956 million in new annual wages. The current property and improvement value for Jasper County is $113 million. It’s a very small and poor rural county. The estimated capital investment on Exit 3 and related projects is $7.1 billion.”
The long-term projection: more than 6-thousand jobs that will exceed the county’s wage average, from that project alone, within 10 years.
Hardeeville, the city of Richland and Jasper County have also applied for federal stimulus dollars.
(Part of one of two)