Opinion: Team Sumter can do great things when we unite


On Aug. 27, 2019, Sumter County Council received a briefing from Mr. Jay Schwedler, president and CEO of Sumter Economic Development, on future investment projects in Sumter and Lee Counties. During this briefing, Mr. Schwedler (Jay) related that Continental Tire has 1,321 employees and will employ an additional 200 soon. I was very elated because this information brought back cherished memories.

I was elected chairman of Sumter County Council in January 2011. In March 2011, Jay informed council members that his agency along with the Sumter Development Board, chaired by Greg Thompson; Sumter Smarter Growth Initiative, chaired by Mack Kolb; S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley; and Bobby Hitt, secretary of Commerce, were in the process of negotiating one of the year's biggest economic development projects in South Carolina.

Sumter County's infrastructure investments made it one of the frontrunners along with two other sites in Louisiana and North Carolina. Project Soccer (code name) was a $500 million manufacturing investment by Continental Tire the Americas, creating 1,600 jobs with salaries above the county's median income. All council members were on board and recognized that this was a game changer. Every vote we made was timely and unanimous.

The Sumter site with water, rail and closeness to an interstate highway was an ideal location. However, when Continental officials visited the 182-acre prospective site, it was too small to accommodate the 1-million-square-foot facility. Jay was given 48 hours to obtain the additional property that would expand the site to 350 acres. In securing the additional land, Jay encountered a major dilemma. The owners of 10 acres of land within the expanded site were not willing to sell, and all attempts to purchase their land failed. While reviewing the site plan, I noticed a 21-acre tract outside of the plan and successfully negotiated a land swap. All parties agreed because we wanted a progressive future for Sumter County.

Oct. 6, 2019, was the ninth anniversary of Continental's historic announcement in the Sumter Opera House.

When Team Sumter unites, great things happen.


Sumter County Council