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Editorial: Worth paying attention to Jasper

There was great optimism last week at the State of Jasper County breakfast.

Marty Sauls, Jasper County Chamber of Commerce president and Jasper County Council Chairman, Ridgeland Mayor Joey Malphrus and Hardeeville Mayor Harry Williams each spoke about what they believe is Jasper County’s bright future.

The annual breakfast gives county leaders the opportunity to hype their initiatives, but we’re encouraged that true progress is being made.

Sauls affirmed that the Jasper Ocean Terminal project is moving along and County Council is talking to business leaders to learn what skills will be required of the workforce.

This is vitally important. The port’s expected to bring hundreds of thousands of jobs and the county needs to be prepared with well-trained workers.

And we’re encouraged that a State of the Port address will become an annual event, according to Sauls. Last spring, then-Gov. Nikki Haley attended the initial event.

Sauls couldn’t confirm if Gov. Henry McMaster will be in Jasper for this year’s gathering, but he’s confident those in the state Capitol have their eyes on the county.

“Columbia is paying close attention to Jasper County,” he said.

We are pleased a date has been set — April 8 — for the unveiling of Hardeeville’s new 6,200-square-foot library. The groundbreaking was held in the fall of 2015 and we’ve watched the building develop on Main Street.

The library will offer much-needed technology upgrades and will be a great resource for residents to use its computers for job searches and applying online.

Williams said City Council members, with help from volunteers, plan to make the library a “center of learning” for children.

We look forward to its grand opening.

A way toward continued progress is cracking down on crime and Malphrus spoke about the Ridgeland Police Department’s 15 security cameras, which he said has helped the town recover stolen property and find suspected gang members.

We recently reported that violent crime dropped in the town from 198 incidents in 2015 to 170 last year and there were fewer burglaries.

The drop can’t entirely be attributed to the cameras, which were installed last September, but Police Chief Richard Woods said he has no doubt they’ve made an impact.

That impact likely has a wide-ranging effect.

If word continues to spread about Ridgeland’s security cameras, then we think potential criminals will not only think twice about committing a crime in town, but also in the county.

Jasper County’s leaders are confident the county is headed on the right path.

Williams thinks the city’s population could triple in the next 10 years and Sauls said 21 businesses are considering coming to Jasper.

We know projects sometimes are delayed and not every goal comes to fruition, but now’s a time to pay attention to Jasper County.

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