Its identity is still a mystery, but “Project Metric” is a step closer to having a major impact on the future of Union County, the Upstate, and the State of South Carolina.
Meeting in special session Monday afternoon, Union County Council voted unanimously to approve second reading of an incentive agreement between the county and the company known only as Project Metric. The proposed incentive package includes a fee-in-lieu of taxes agreement that will enable the company to pay a reduced property tax rate; a special revenue source credit; a transfer of land from the county to the company; an option for the company to purchase more land; and other related matters between the county and the company.
A public hearing and a third reading of the incentive package must be held before it is passed. Council will meet in special session next Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. for the public hearing and third and final reading of the incentive package.
The speed with which council is moving to approve the incentive package is yet another indication of the importance of Project Metric and its potential impact, both within and without Union County. When he first presented the proposed incentive package to council, Supervisor Tommy Sinclair would not provide any specifics about Project Metric in terms of how much it would be investing in the county and/or how many jobs it would generate or reveal the identify of the company. He did, however, say the county would move the project along as quickly as possible because once it becomes a reality, Project Metric will have a positive impact not only on Union County, but on the rest of the Upstate and the rest of South Carolina.
Prior to voting on the second reading of the incentive package, council discussed the issue of how many Union County residents might be hired by Project Metric.
Councilman Ben Ivey raised the issue, asking whether or not the county is requiring Project Metric to hire a certain percentage of its workforce from within Union County. Sinclair and Union County Development Board Executive Director Andrena Powell-Baker pointed out that while the county does not require companies it recruits to hire a certain percentage of its workforce from within the county, it does encourage them to make every effort to hire as many local residents as possible.
“We encourage the company to make every effort possible to hire locally,” Powell-Baker said. “We do specify that the jobs must be full-time with benefits.”
Powell-Baker said that a powerful incentive for companies to hire locally is a trained workforce. She encouraged the public to take advantage of the educational and training opportunities offered by the Union County Advanced Technology Center.
“One of the focuses of the center is to align its training with the needs of business and industry,” Powell-Baker said. “A trained workforce make us more attractive and makes us more competitive.”
Sinclair said the county is in the process of transitioning from the lower-tech industries of the past to the high-tech industries of the present and the future of which Project Metric is one. A trained workforce will be the key to the county making that transition.
Ivey agreed, pointing out that while Project Metric and other industries the county recruits should be encouraged to hire as much locally as possible, the county has also benefited from companies in other counties hiring Union County residents.
“I was just clarifying for my own understanding if it was specified, if there was a certain percentage of local hires,” Ivey said. “It’s not specific because our project, like those in other counties, we have people crossing boundaries. We have people working at BMW. That’s been a big impact, our people working there.”