While areas of the Economic Development District have flourished for quite some time, several of the more traditionally rural areas of the region have recently experienced rapid growth while others are at the genesis of growth.

Through the cooperative efforts of local government, local economic development organizations, the Catawba Regional Council of Governments, and the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the practice of proactively planning for future growth has accelerated in recent years throughout the region.

Through these planning efforts, growth may be guided and managed at the local level in an effort to ensure conducive, diverse and sustainable economies in these emerging areas. Planning efforts are built upon substantial private and public input combined with traditional planning principles and advanced GIS modeling. These efforts, coupled with regional hazard mitigation planning, have an eye towards guiding growth, insuring infrastructure and service delivery pressures and threats are addressed, and economic development diversity is encouraged in an effort to create a resilient economy in which to work and live.

While many of these planning projects would normally be cost prohibitive for smaller jurisdictions, the Catawba Regional Economic Development District has been able to leverage its ties to state, federal, and local public and private entities to lessen the burden on local government. This often times yields a cost-sharing model consisting of private economic development groups, EDA grants, and local money. This practice not only reduces the financial burden for the local government but also encourages participation and input on the project from both public and private sector alike.

Leveraging COVID-19 funding from the EDA, Catawba Regional is currently undertaking a region- wide Industrial Site Assessment for Chester, Lancaster, Union, and York Counties. The goal of the project is to use GIS modeling to identify future viable industrial sites throughout the region. The Industrial Site Assessment is being completed through a cooperative effort between Catawba Regional and the six major economic development organizations within the region.

Counties throughout the Economic Development District have expressed interest in similar work as they identify and respond to growth pressures and look to market and develop more diverse areas across the region.

Resiliency in the New Normal

As with many regions around the country, the Catawba Region has been impacted negatively by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment within York County alone went from an all-time low of 1.7% in 2018 to a near-recession level high of 11.5% in early 2020.

Through regional planning efforts in conjunction with federal and state grantsmanship, the Catawba Regional Economic Development District is positioned to weather the storm through diversification and expansion of the local and regional economies.

Catawba Regional is leveraging COVID relief funds to migrate the paper CEDS to an online data portal that will provide more up-to-date economic development metrics for the region. This online CEDS will be directly linked to vital public and private data resources to provide the regional economic developers with up-to-date data necessary to expand the Catawba Region’s economy. The portal is expected to be live by June 2022.

The injection of $8.3 million in COVID RLF funding specifically aimed at bolstering the region’s resiliency to economic disasters such as the 2009 recession and the current pandemic is vital to the future of the region. With this funding, Catawba Regional has been able to assist numerous small businesses across the state in surviving the economy’s downturn through the pandemic. These loans have assisted in the expansion and retention of vital jobs throughout the state of South Carolina, as well as contributing to the diversification of the employment base. Borrowers have ranged from pediatric physician clinics aimed at more efficiently treating COVID-19 patients to rural service companies that were especially hard hit by the pandemic.

With continued support from the local Economic Development Corporations and the U.S. Economic Development Administration, Catawba Regional is positioned to assist in the continued growth of the region.