Florence recognized by state for economic development

Florence recognized by state for economic development
Municipal achievement awards to the city of Florence. (Source: Audrey Biesk)
Municipal achievement awards to the city of Florence. (Source: Audrey Biesk)

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - The Municipal Association of South Carolina awarded cities around the state at their annual meeting, and Florence was one of the recipients.

The city was selected, along with other municipalities, to receive the Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Award for Economic Development.

Florence's downtown master plan that began in 2013 was recognized. It addressed revitalization goals on a socioeconomic, physical and cultural level.

"The downtown is an essential piece of every community," said Drew Griffin, Florence city manager.

Florence has seen a significant comeback over the past five years.

"The real turn of the corner came in 2012 when we announced the Hotel Florence and Victors private development, so public and nonprofit investment then became supplemented by private investment downtown," said Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela.

Wukela believes a city needs all of it to attract a workforce and keep people coming back. More and more private investment came in the form of restaurants and hotels and office space, and significant dollars from new restaurants and retail.

"I think you'll continue to see additional residential development. There is certainly a number of condos and other folks exploring private residential development downtown," Wukela said.

The public investment will also continue in the form of streetscapes, public art investment and parking infrastructure.

"What I have really noticed is this overarching sense of pride that people are starting to feel for the Florence community," Griffin said. "We always did well, we always had good diverse industry, we've had a lot of growth, but that growth has basically been suburban-style growth."

The MASC acknowledged other entities started to invest and seek out opportunities in downtown Florence.

"I think we'll continue to see Florence take a leadership role not just in the Pee Dee, but in the state itself," Griffin said.

The downtown master plan will continue to be updated with new needs. City officials are planning to apply again next year for the municipal achievement award.

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