Rice: I-73, Dillon Inland Port, opportunity zones to transform Pee Dee counties

MARION COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Marion, Dillon and Marlboro counties are just some that could start to see a decrease in their unemployment rates once the Dillon Inland Port is complete, according to Rep. Tom Rice.

Weeds sprout through the cracks in some parking lots and shrubbery overtakes the entrances to what used to be textile and tobacco factories. Rice said over time, those industries have declined.

"Their families have had to pick up and leave here because there's nothing for them," said Rice.

The Dillon Port is currently under construction and slated to open next month. Rice said it and projects like Interstate 73 and opportunity zones will all aid in bringing people and jobs back to the area.

"It will allow trucks to pull off here and unload their container, which will then be loaded on trains and then be taken to the Charleston Port. It's far more cost effective, far less polluting, far more efficient," he said.

Julie Norman, executive director of the Economic Development Commission in Marion County, said county leaders are in favor of both the port and I-73.

"We know already that interstates, other infrastructure attracts jobs and investment, and that is something that's been sorely missing in this region for a long time," Norman said.

Rice said the Dillon Inland Port already has commitments from companies and the work isn't even finished yet.

"Dillon County will not be able to fill all those jobs itself; it will not be able to fill all those jobs. We'll have to have people from surrounding counties and I-73 will spread the prosperity that this inland port will bring up and down its route throughout Marion and Marlboro counties," said Rice.

Norman said to not move forward with I-73 would be irresponsible at this stage of the game, especially after planning for it so in-depth for so long.

"Back to I-73, Harbor Freight is in Dillon because of having an interstate and the inland port is there because of Harbor Freight. So, we know that we're going to see a lot of activity in the coming months and then years," she said.

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