Progress Energy gives to Lee County

BISHOPVILLE – Lee County has received a $25,000 contribution from Progress Energy to assist the county in improving infrastructure on property owned by the county and the city of Bishopville.

Lee County Economic Development Alliance Executive Director Jeff Burgess said the funds will be used to support paving a road from U.S. 15 to a building currently used by the county for storage. The building is located behind Carolina Metal Finishing Company, which is located in the old National Guard Armory building on 547 South Main Street.

An option with Carolina Metal to buy the building ran out in November 2010, Burgess said.

“They haven’t decided if they’re going to expand or not,” Burgess said. “They could still buy the building, or we could sell it to another business or small industry.”

Burgess said the paving project could cost as much as $140,000.

“This is a drop in the bucket of what we will need for this project,” he said. “We want to make this property more attractive to a prospect buyer. For now, it is hard to get to the building from U.S. 15.”

Carolina Metal, a subsidiary of Paramount Metal Finishing Company headquartered in New Jersey, owns the former armory building and began operations in late 2006.

The Bishopville facility applies powder coating to sprinkler heads, and employs some 20 workers, according to Plant Manager John Gibart.

Burgess said the paving project would enable 18-wheelers to drive to the back of the facility, if the company decided to expand in the future.

The company’s expansion is linked to buying the building owned by the city and the county.

Stuart Ames, a Progress Energy representative, said the company’s contribution comes from the utility’s annual license fee credits and will go toward road improvements to support the county’s efforts to add jobs.

“We’re proud to be part of the team that helps stimulate the growth of Lee County,” Ames said. “The success of our company is directly linked to the growth and prosperity of the communities we serve. The infrastructure support we provide through these license fee credits is just one of the ways we work together with local counties to help existing industries grow.”

Burgess said Progress Energy has a long history of supporting economic development in South Carolina includes support for infrastructure, industrial park development and local leadership and marketing activities.

“On behalf of the Lee County Economic Development Alliance and Lee County Council, I can say we truly appreciate everything Progress Energy has done to assist us with this project,” Burgess said. “We look forward to continuing our strong partnership with Progress Energy as we enter 2012.”

Lee County Councilman Gordon Eckley said local utility companies have been supportive of the county’s efforts to expand local industries.

“This is a good example of the county working hard and trying to find money from other sources to save our taxpayers’ money,” he said. “We’re grateful Progress Energy is willing to work with us to make this possible. The county has always tried to support local industries when they want to expand and add jobs.”

Ames said the license fee credits were made possible by the 1996 Rural Development Act, which permits certain utilities, transportation providers and electric cooperatives to claim a credit against their state business license fees for amounts paid in cash to provide infrastructure improvements to eligible projects.

To be considered eligible for funding, a project must meet certain requirements generally involving the creation of new jobs.