By: Joshua Lloyd, Morning News
“FLORENCE, S.C. – The Pee Dee is on a roll and Florence is central to that momentum, according to some legislators at a breakfast event Friday.
The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce hosted its third annual legislative breakfast meeting at the Florence Civic Center, giving Florence’s business community a chance to hear from municipal, state and congressional leaders.
The speakers included at-large Florence City Councilwoman Octavia Williams-Blake, state Rep. Phillip Lowe, a Republican representing District 60, and U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, a Republican representing the7th Congressional District.
All three speakers said this area is in a unique position of growth and competitiveness.
Williams-Blake, who was re-elected last fall to a third term on the city council, lauded the city’s ability to tackle major problems like the Timmonsville water crisis, while moving forward with multimillion dollar investments in the downtown area.
She said the future will be a new challenge for the city, but a challenge that’s necessary for more positive results.
“As we move forward we’ll address community health issues that involve safe housing and safer street, education to enable good jobs and living wages, and neighborhood revitalization to promote economic health and proximity to good health care,” she said. “
Lowe, whose district covers parts of Florence and Darlington counties, said the state legislature also has its work cut out but things are looking bright.
“Of the $400 million new dollars we have to spend, $100 million will go directly to education and the districts in the Abbeville (school lawsuit) case and $54 million to base student costs,” Lowe said. “We have $83 million going toward Hurricane Matthew recovery. So we have a lot of fires to put out.”
He said he’s positive the House will out forward an infrastructure bill soon, likely moving toward a 10-cent increase in the gas tax.
Rice, in his third term, said he’s worked on two major initiatives in the past year that will boost this area tremendously: the Dillon inland port and Interstate 73.
“These are proabaly some of the most important projects to happen to that Dillon, Marlboro, Marion county area in a generation,” Rice said. “The amount of job growth that will come from that is going to be phenomenal. We’ll see good, living wage jobs start to pop up that way.”