NESA sets course for strong year

02/02/2013 2:18 PM

02/02/2013 2:19 PM

The North Eastern Strategic Alliance executive committee met Friday to recap 2012 and plot its course for 2013, which is already shaping up to be a strong year.

Leaders say 2013 will be a good year for the organization, whose mission is regional economic development in nine northeastern counties, including Horry and Georgetown counties, to create jobs for residents by working with current companies and recruiting new ones.

NESA executive director Jeff McKay said the region saw several economic developments in 2012, but several factors stunted the potential growth for the year, but that appears to be shifting.

“If the activity we're seeing right now is any indication, this could be a really good year,” McKay said. “I think there is a lot of pent-up demand and without question the No. 1 deterrent to them doing something is uncertainty. You had the election, the fiscal cliff and all this stuff coming, and now that some of that is getting out of the way, you're going to start seeing some decisions being made.”

And that translates into growth in the NESA region in the form of fresh capital investment, more job opportunities and companies reinvesting in the area.

In 2012, the organization saw announced projects ranging from Nucor's $120 million investment in Darlington last February to PGBA BlueCross BlueShield's job announcement of 445 jobs for Florence in July. All together, 23 projects NESA worked on created more than 1,400 jobs with an investment of $326.3 million for the region.

The organization is already on course to beat numbers from last year, as potential projects are bigger than before.

NESA “worked on 63 newly generated projects last year that represented over 18,000 potential new jobs with a potential investment of $3 billion. The industries we centered on were manufacturing metals call centers wood products and aviation,” committee member Frank Willis said. “Currently, we're following 38 active projects representing the opportunity for nearly $2 billion investment and over 8,200 jobs.”

Willis added that 55 percent of last year's projects were generated by NESA and its allies.

Agribusiness is one sector that will receive more attention this year. McKay says the Pee Dee, which mirrors the NESA region, is ideally situated and home to several large operations already — a beneficial factor when attracting new business.

“Agrbiz is becoming one of our most active sectors. It incorporates a lot of things, food processing, the growth side of it, wood products. a lot of things under that umbrella,” McKay said. “But if you look at the strengths of our region and compare that with the needs of agribusiness, they align themselves real well. I see them being a bigger and bigger part of that.”

McKay said NESA is working with a couple agribusiness projects, with big announcements planned for the first half of the year that would benefit growers in the region.

S.C. Sen. J. Yancey McGill, chairman of the NESA executive committee, said such investments come from remaining active and marketing missions throughout the region, country and world.

“Every time we participate and go, we've been successful. The only time we're not successful is when we sit back,” McGill said. “It's making a mega-difference.”

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