FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - Florence city and business leaders got some much-needed face time with lawmakers in Washington D.C.
A group of 14 local leaders traveled to Washington to discuss topics that will directly impact the growth of the Pee Dee.
The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce has put on legislative trips to the nation's capital for more than 15 years. Florence Mayor Steve Wukela was there and said time with key state representatives is critical to the development of the city.
"They were all very, very impressed and aware of what's going on in Florence and the momentum in Florence, particularly with what's going on in downtown Florence," said Wukela.
Not just downtown Florence, but all over the city. Wukela talked about the success story of the $5 million grant from the state Environmental Protection Agency for Hope Health's new building.
"They just finished construction on 50,000 square feet and getting ready for another 30,000 square feet," he said. "That's very impressive to lawmakers and reassures them that when the EPA makes these Brownfields grants to the city of Florence, they see return for that investment."
A grant application is also pending before the EPA to fix a blighted corridor along S.C. 52 that has been abandoned for years.
Wukela also shared the desire to provide a food hub in Florence for those needing fresh, locally grown produce.
"Essentially, they live in what is described by the Department of Agriculture as a food desert," Wukela said. "They don't have access to produce and food, other than at the corner store in a lot of occasions."
He added a food hub would also give farmers and new restaurants coming to the downtown a chance to access locally grown produce.
Another neighborhood revitalization project underway is on Pine Street and North Vista, one that required the city to ask for more support from the state Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Mike Miller, president of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce, also traveled to D.C. for the legislative meeting. He said local leaders take part in these types of events because they are concerned about the growth of the region and what they need to do to see it flourish.
State representatives were all aware of the recent announcement of the $13 million investment bringing 60 jobs to Florence. Wukela said many commented about the activity taking place in downtown Florence, while also noting how encouraged they were because development was expanding to neighborhoods surrounding the city.
"We do take the time to go up and meet with the folks that make things happen," said Miller.
Both Wukela and Miller said federal funds played a large role in pushing for more development in Florence and they plan to continue to keep their relationship with the legislators strong.