GEORGETOWN, SC (WMBF) - The shuttered steel mill in Georgetown was once an economic generator for the city and surrounding areas.
Now, the city's mayor hopes the site could once again start doing that, albeit in a different way.
"I think we've reached a point where we've got to put that behind us and do something that's more oriented to the long-term future of this community," Mayor Jack Scoville said.
A panel from the Urban Land Institute will visit Georgetown in September to study the steel mill, which closed in 2015.
Georgetown started an ad-hoc committee about six months ago to bring together city and county leaders as well as other key players to discuss the future of the steel mill.
However, the committee decided bringing in people from the outside would be the best way to fully analyze the situation and come up with a plan.
"We thought it would be better to have a third party come in that doesn't have any dogs in this fight, so to speak," Scoville said. "And involve the public in this process to where, hopefully, we'll come up with a mutually agreeable plan to develop it."
The panel will take a five-day tour of the area and look at data trends, such as jobs, economic development and infrastructure.
The ULI representatives will also interview up to 100 people and spend two days putting together a report.
Scoville said a number of factors make steel an non-viable industry for Georgetown now, including decreasing steel prices, increasing steel imports and the inability for large ships to get into the city's waterway.
He said he's hoping to talk to the property owner soon to find out more of their thoughts on all of this.
James Sanderson, president of United Steelworkers Local 7898, said he still thinks the steel mill has a future as is.
"There's somebody out there interested in wanting to buy our plant," he said.
Sanderson added the strong jobs the steel mill provided supported many families in the area.
"Very sad, very devastating," he said in reference to the steel mill closure. "A lot of people depended on that plant for their livelihood."
Sanderson blames imports for the economic issues in the American steel industry.
"The imports are coming into this country at an astronomically unfair rate," he said. "It's sad that nobody in Washington can really understand how much of an impact that has had on the working people in this country."
However, Sanderson said he's happy to see area leaders are thinking about plans in case a steel mill reopening can't happen.
"I think you need to act as a leader and have a vision and try to come up with something you think is going to be beneficial to everybody in this community," Sanderson said.