Hardeeville in Jasper County is experiencing growth pressure from the Hilton Head, Bluffton and Savannah areas and is launching a tremendous commercial development project, located across from the Sun City Development. At $400 million, local officials say it may be the largest commercial development to date in South Carolina. It means 1.7 million square feet of retail space and 2000 permanent jobs.
Ted Felder, who directs Economic Development for the nearby town of Hardeeville, says the project is not really connected to the the port project, the proposal for the Jasper Ocean Terminal which is simutaneously underway. He says it’s the town’s geograhical location, and they’ve learned a lot from “their neighbors.”
“It’s like we’re in the center of the perfect storm, certainly in residential growth, and on the commercial and industrial side as well. And we’re doing our best to make sure we’ve done our planning upfront. We’ve watched neighbors and friends in other areas who have faced growth challenges and frankly have had to make very tough, and sometimes bad decisions, not throwing stones at all, and we’ve tried to learn from those mistakes they’ve made,” says Felder.
The investment comes from the Sembler Company of Atlanta. Construction will take place around the intersections of Highways 278 and 170.
Felder says 2000 permanent jobs created overnight is nothing short of remarkable. “It’s going to create a minimum of 2000 permanent jobs. For a city whose labor force currently has 60 percent of its population going outside of the county to seek employment in other places, this is going to lead to a lot more jobs closer to home at better pay. And we think that will lead to a better quality of life for everyone.”
And Felder says there’s no doubt that the project is history in the making. “Hardeeville and Southern Jasper County are really going to write the next chapter in South Carolina. It’s going to be amazing what happens here. And folks are going to turn around and wish they had taken pictures, and they’re going to shake their head in disbelief, that one of the worst areas, in one of the poorest times economically that we’ve gone through as a nation, have been able to land projects such as this.”
Felder says such a development probably didn’t happen years ago because the property was used for timber farming.
The commercial project involved a planning proposal that was featured in an article in the New York Times.
Felder says the existing town is protected by the inclusion of voluntary development fees to fund roads and other necessities like schools and police protection.
Felder 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.
One study shows the creation of 28,000 new jobs, in a county that currently has a population of 23,000 and a workforce of less than 11,000, and that’s only connected to one of several projects, the creation of a new interstate exit.
Hardeeville is working with Jasper County government to find money for the commercial development, the port project and the new interstate exit, all totaled, almost $120 million in development.