MARION COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Marion County was once known for its textiles and tobacco but it’s diversified over the years and now the unemployment rates are at a record low 2.7%.
Executive director for Marion County Economic Development, Dr. Julie Norman, said while she can’t pinpoint what exactly has led to this significant change, one of the biggest contributing factors is the Inland Port Dillon.
Norman said this has given the county and surrounding counties the opportunity to draw companies to the area.
“The Inland Port Dillon has been a tremendous asset to the region and it’s been a driver for Marion County’s economy recently as well,” she said. “We’ve announced two different companies in the past year that are here because of the inland port. And we continue to see a lot of interest and activity, prospects that come to town because of that.”
The owner of Fred’s Barber Shop in Marion County, Frederick Gause, has been through the struggling times and glory days in Marion County.
He and other business owners said they’re seeing the bright side of the unemployment rate decreasing.
“We’re rebounding quite nicely. Our downtown is doing great, we’ve got several new businesses coming in and people are encouraged,” Magnolias on Main owner Karen Dervish said.
But it hasn’t always been like this. In 2009, Marion County saw its worst unemployment rate in history. Reaching a high of 20.4%
“It was very tough, it was very tough to be in business. I had to be really creative," Gause said. “I entertained picking up a part-time job. I even contemplated delivering newspapers at night, to be a mail carrier, just to make ends meet.”
These statistics don’t include those unemployed who aren’t in the system.
“We just gotta keep charging forward. There’s still too many people outside of the workforce," U.S. Rep. Tom Rice said. "Unemployment rates are based upon people in the workforce. There’s still too many people outside of the workforce.”
Andrea Williams is one Marion County resident who said even though the rates are down, he’s having a hard time finding a job, leaving him with one option.
“There’s no future, I have to move," Williams said. "I’m on food stamps, I’ve got to move.”
But Norman said they’re planning for the future and a big piece of that is being ready and for the rates, looking promising.
“Having available sites and buildings and people,” Norman said. “I think that this, we’re gonna hold steady on this for a while and no signs so far point that we have anything to worry about.”