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Editorial: Jobs announcement sign of growth

News of Coca-Cola’s pending arrival quickly made its way through the county.

In less than 24 hours, our story of the sales and distribution center opening in 2018 at Cypress Ridge Park in Ridgeland was shared 75 times on Facebook (145 as of Monday) and reached more than 8,000 people.

Our readers are clearly interested in the job opportunities.

The hunger for job news didn’t surprise Jasper County Council Chairman Marty Sauls.

“People are looking at a shorter distance to work, people want to have a good-paying job close to where they live,” he said.

More than 10,000 people leave the county to work, the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce says, with most traveling to Beaufort and Chatham counties.

Sauls wants to bring those workers back to Jasper.

Economic development has long been Sauls and the county’s priority and it appears the work is paying off.

According to the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce, Jasper County’s unemployment rate plummeted from 10.3 percent in 2009 to 4.2 percent in 2016, below the state mark of 4.8 percent. In February it was 4.1 percent, but fell to 3.3 percent in September.

Through its partnership with the SouthernCarolina Regional Development Alliance, Sauls said the county is working to bring the county strong jobs.

“My focus and the county’s focus is to give citizens access to quality, high-paying jobs,” Sauls said.

And the Coca-Cola Consolidated announcement, which expects to have wages start at $17 an hour, is just part of the resurgence.

Sauls expects at least one more business announcement by the end of the year that will bring more jobs to the county.

Not only is the goal to have more work in the county, but to cut back on the long commutes. Instead of workers driving an hour to Hilton Head, Sauls envisions more 5- to 10-minutes commutes, which means more opportunities for families to have time together.

“It all equals more time at home, more time with family and it promotes a healthy economy,” he said.

The county wants college graduates to want to come back home and have prosperous careers.

“We have to create the opportunity for children to live and work and play right here in Jasper County,” Sauls said.

We are encouraged by the news of well-paying jobs coming to the county and look forward to the announcement of more job opportunities.

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