Manufacturers ‘proud to be in Pickens County’

Tom O’Hanlan

Manufacturers Caring for Pickens County

The Manufacturers Caring for Pickens County would like to offer our support to the School District of Pickens County’s five-year maintenance plan. We have been working closely with the district and we are very enthusiastic about the quality of education and job skills that are attainable here.

While no one likes taxes and tax increases, sometimes they are necessary. We are blessed to have such high-quality new schools in our county. They are a true asset, both in what they offer students, as well as a showpiece for the county to use in economic development. Every company looking to locate here asks about and tours the schools.

As manufacturers, we rely on the district for a skilled workforce. Jobs aren’t what they used to be. Today’s advanced manufacturing jobs require a much higher degree of skill and training. Some high school students are actually working as interns and apprentices to our companies. As you can see, much has changed.

As business owners, we also understand that you must invest in infrastructure and maintain it in order to stay competitive. We are proud to support economic development in the county, and we know that growing the tax base can only help us all.

For far too long, Pickens County has been “upside down” in many respects. Ours is the second-largest school district in the Upstate and 13th largest in the state, yet we are fifth-lowest in operating millage and fourth-lowest in per pupil operational spending. This comes as no surprise considering the fact that last year was the first time that we increased our operating millage since 2003. It makes no sense from a business perspective. We have the top-ranking school in the state here — Daniel High — but we have ignored the need to pay our teachers competitive salaries. For this reason, we are becoming a training ground for other counties’ recruits. The reputation we have for quality education was hard earned. We implore that you do what is necessary to preserve our reputation and restore our school district.

Taking advantage of low interest rates and refinancing our debt allows a rare opportunity to supplement our school district’s funding and to minimize the burden to taxpayers. The tax plan being presented is reasonable and absolutely necessary to maintain quality in education in Pickens County.

Many are still upset about the expensive building program. The building program created beautiful modern facilities, but it did not provide a funding mechanism for their maintenance. It also did not address salaries and operations cost increases. We can’t keep cutting salaries and teacher supply budgets to pay for necessary maintenance costs. Only through utilizing our assets and marketing ourselves as a district capable of producing world-class scholar technicians will our tax base grow. An increase in our tax base is a win for everyone.

As Darla Moore, benefactress of the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina, so eloquently said — “It means the bar must be raised at every level just to remain competitive. And, to succeed, it means that communities must take a much greater role in the economic wellbeing of their citizens.”

In closing, we ask you to be open-minded and ask questions about this issue. Ask us, or come visit our plants. Better yet, visit the career center and see what is being taught there, and witness the excitement of the students.

We are proud to be in Pickens County, and we hope it shows!

Tom O’Hanlan is the chairman of Manufacturers Caring for Pickens County.