Gov. Nikki Haley said Monday that rural South Carolina can recruit businesses if leaders work to beautify their downtown areas, upgrade road and sewer services and get the word out about their communities.
"We're going to change the face of rural South Carolina," Haley told more than 170 people gathered at the 21st annual South Carolina Rural Summit. "It is now going to become those lucky little gems that people didn't know we had because we're going to shine a light on it."
Her appearance marked the first time a governor has attended the event since 2004.
The Bamberg native said she's a product of rural South Carolina. Haley said she wants to let local leaders know she understands their needs and will work to bring jobs to areas outside of Charleston, Greenville and Columbia.
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"When I think of rural areas, I think of home," she said, noting she also attended school in Orangeburg before eventually representing Lexington in the House.
Haley told attendees to put together committees to concentrate on beautification, infrastructure and community pride. When business owners consider locating in rural South Carolina, the access to roads and sewers are among the first concerns.
She credited Newberry, known for its renovated Opera House, as an example of a community that focused on beautification.
"When they come to your rural area, it has to be a pretty place. They love the fact that it has that small-town charm," she said. For towns that don't have that, she said much of it could be done with volunteer work: "Let's make the town pretty."