Florence officials talk city growth at planning retreat

SOCIETY HILL, SC (WMBF) - Florence's two-day planning retreat kicked off Monday in Society Hill, where leaders discussed important aspects of the city and how they can contribute to its growth.

Over the past several years, businesses and people have flocked to the Florence area. City manager Drew Griffin said the retreat is to discuss the responsibilities that come with the growth.

"We're kind of coming to a point of where we need to really say, 'What's next for Florence?'" Griffin said.

With the rapid progress Florence sees every year, Griffin said this kind of discussion is necessary in developing the city as a regional center of commerce, tourism and living.

Griffin says the city hasn't held a meeting like this in 15 years.

"This gives us an opportunity to spend a good … fair number amount of time together where we can talk about those issues that are occurring in Florence, the direction we think Florence could go," Griffin said.

Topics ranged from creating a more vibrant downtown scene to enhancing storm water patterns to decreasing flooding.

Officials also discussed issues with budgeting and growth for the police and fire departments.

During the retreat, each department presents how they contribute to city development, stating their achievements and challenges.

"As we prepare our work, as we prepare our budget, as we look at projects and what people tell us, it gives us the ability to meet those needs," Griffin said.

On Monday, officials discussed public communication efforts and finances, such as what's best for getting the community's attention and ways to increase involvement.

City officials said social media plays a major part in getting the word out, with 80 percent of the Florence population using Facebook.

Officials added that Facebook was one of the main methods of communication during emergencies like Hurricane Matthew.

"Technology is bringing lots of different opinions to us. We still though, because our audience is broad, we haven't given up those traditional methods of communication," office administrator Amanda Pope said.

Griffin said, ultimately, he hopes the retreat will give the city an extra push in making Florence a better place to live.

"How do we take what we've achieved to date and move it into the arena that we become the regional principal city of this part of the state in some ways like Greenville or Charleston?" Griffin said

The retreat will wrap up Tuesday with discussion of a 2020 comprehensive plan and public services.

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