Georgetown Industry – Georgetown, South Carolina
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Just as Georgetown‘s rivers helped it thrive in the era of rice, so did they help the city survive after the collapse of “Carolina Gold.” In 1899, when a group of Northern lumbermen uncovered the great timber region to the south of Georgetown, it brought new life to the former rice town. The incorporation of Atlantic Coast Lumber Company (ACL) took place in 1903 and started Georgetown on its third economic industry. (Read more about Georgetown timber). Taking advantage of the existing river system for floating logs to the mill, ACL also made a profound impact on Georgetown’s harbor. They used sail and steam ships to relocate millions of tons or rock to establish rock jetties on the north and sound end of the harbor. A dredge was also built to add a channel to Georgetown’s aquatic resources.
With timber comes paper products and in 1936, four years after ACL closed its doors from the effects of the Great Depression, International Paper built its current mill adjacent to ACL’s former site, which is just about a mile from the harbor. (Read more about Georgetown paper plant). Next, Georgetown Steel acquired former ACL land between the Sampit River and the harbor, strengthening city’s economy even more.
However, decreasing production has been an ongoing struggle for Georgetown’s economy over the past decade. In 2003, Georgetown Steel declared bankruptcy and claimed it was unable to compete with China in the commercial building segment. The plant sat dormant for a few months until it was purchased by International Steel Group (ISG) and reopened in May 2004. ISG merged with ArcelorMittal to become ArcelorMittal Steel, shifting its focus toward manufacturing for US automakers.
With the beginning of the economic slowdown that started in 2008, ArcelorMittal has faced an uphill battle obtaining new production orders. In March 2009, The Sun News reported in its article Steel Mill Layoffs Extended for 2 Weeks the mill would be closed through April 13, 2009 – marking the third closing in six months. The employees, while not working, are still eligible for unemployment benefits as well as supplemental employment pay.
Much of Georgetown’s economy relies directly on the mill and the income it generates. Both city and mill officials are seeking ways to adapt in the changing economic environment.
Georgetown is again on the brink of a “re-defining moment.” Citizens are concerned about the industrial plants closing. However, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce is optimistic about city’s future. The port, which hasn’t seen a freight ship since December 2008, is one opportunity for new commerce, but funds for dredging are tight. (Dredging would allow for bigger ships, which would strengthen the port’s potential.) Nearly two million dollars has been secured, but an additional nine million is needed to complete the project. (Discussed in the Sun Times article, Ports Authority Discusses Future of Georgetown Site.)
The harbor city is brimming with rich history and amazing coastal beauty. Georgetown County won the National Civic League‘s All America community award in 2005. Sport and commercial fishing is gaining popularity in the area, bringing shrimpers and tournaments to Georgetown’s rivers and Winyah Bay.
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