UNION — The friendship and bipartisan cooperation between himself and State Rep. Mike Anthony helped save USC Union and is continuing to work to build the future success of Union County, State Sen. Harvey Peeler told the Union Rotary Club on Tuesday.
Peeler, a Republican, has represented S.C. Senate District 14 — which encompasses all or parts of Cherokee, Spartanburg, Union and York counties — since 1980. Since 2005 he has served as Majority Leader of the S.C. Senate and has served as chairman of the Senate Medical Affairs Committee since 2001. He has served as vice chairman of the Senate Finance Committee since 2007 and also serves on the Education, Ethics, Interstate Cooperation, Transportation, Joint Bond Review, Senate Operations and Management, and State House committees.
Anthony, a Democrat, has represented S.C. House District 42 — which is composed of Union County and part of Laurens County — since 2002. He is a member of the House Rules and Ways and Means committees.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Anthony, a club member, introduced Peeler who’d been invited to address the club by Rotarian Evans Crocker. Anthony recalled how when he first arrived in Columbia as a freshman member of the House, he received a call for assistance from a constituent. He said being new he wasn’t sure how to proceed so he asked for assistance from Peeler who promptly provided it, beginning what has been a friendship that has crossed party lines.
“Since then, he’s been like a mentor me,” Anthony said.
Anthony said that Peeler has often told him how the grateful he is to the people of Union County for the support they’ve shown him over the years. He pointed to a particularly tight race Peeler was in some years ago but was able to win re-election because of the overwhelming support he received in Union County.
That gratitude has gone beyond words to an active concern for and involvement with Union County.
“A lot of things have happened here that he’s been involved with,” Anthony said.
One of those things is the continued existences of USC Union which during the first decade of this century was targeted by then-gov. Mark Sanford who sought to cut off state funding for the campus. Peeler pointed out that had it not been for the efforts of Anthony and himself, Sanford would probably have succeeded in cutting off funding to USC Union and forcing its closing. He cited Anthony’s background and experience as a winning football coach at Union High School as an ingredient in their successful effort to keep USC Union open.
“If it were not for the efforts of Mike Anthony and Harvey Peeler, you would not have USC Union,” Peeler said. “It’s great to work with a coach that hates to lose.”
Peeler said that keeping USC Union open has enabled it to grow in numbers and quality and helped pave the way for the opening of the Union County Technology Center as a joint effort of the university and Spartanburg Community College. He said education is a vital part of economic development and that he and Anthony are doing everything they can to work with those in the community to cultivate that and other assets.
“They will tell you that for economic development you must have an educated workforce, proper infrastructure, and quality of life,” Peeler said. “We are working on all three.”
Peeler said that while Union County’s unemployment remains high at 12.8 percent, it is lower than it was a year ago when it stood at 16.4 percent. He said the decline in unemployment is due to Union County’s success in attracting new industry and retaining existing industry and promoting its expansion.
During the past 20 months, Peeler said there have been five industrial announcements in Union County. He said all of these companies are investing in Union County which he described as a “peaceful, not sleepy location.”
Those new industries, expansions included:
• ESAB: Peeler described the company as a welding wire manufacturer that announced a new plant in Union in April 2011. He said ESAB plans to invest $19 million in its Union facility and employ 100 people. ESAB has a plant in Florence that Peeler said currently employs nearly 500 people, adding that he hopes their Union facility will grow just as large.
• Textile Trends: A new production facility that was also announced in April 2011. Peeler said the company invested $440,000 in the facility and employed 10 people in the production of linen products such as napkins, tablecloths and aprons used in restaurants and hotels.
• Gestamp: In November 2011, Gestamp announced it would expand its existing facility. Peeler said the expansion, which will be complete by late summer 2013. He said the company plans to begin the hiring process in January. The company is investing $57 million in the expansion which will employ 100 people.
• Belk: Peeler said that in March, Belk announced that it would take over the old Disney facility and establish a distribution center in Jonesville. He said that over the next five years the company will invest $4.5 million and hire 124 people.
• Gonvarri Steel Services: An automotive metal company, Gonvarri announced in July that it would locate in Union. Peeler said this will be the Spanish firm’s first North American manufacturing center. He said the company, which decided to locate in Union because of Gestamp, will invest $50 million and hire 65 people. The facility is scheduled to go into production in July 2013.
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.