Seaport town gets economic boost from steel mill, tourism

By Nicole Johnson  bio | email | Twitter

GEORGETOWN, SC (WCSC) - A historic seaport town is now experiencing an economic turn for the better.

Georgetown's jobless rate is on the decline and economic developers say there is more activity now than earlier this year. Town leaders are even trying to promote more tourism.

The closure of the ArcelorMittal steel mill a year and a half ago hit the small seaport town hard, but the mill will be reopening, bring jobs back to the area.

"Retail sales for the city merchants have been down. Restaurants have suffered. We've been hit just like others, even more because of the steel mill shutting down," Mayor Jack Scoville said.

Scoville says there are now signs of much better economic times. The Department of Employment and Workforce says the unemployment rates dropped from 11.6 percent in August to 10.9 percent in September.

Scoville expects that number to go down even more as the steel mill reopens full time and creates close to 300 jobs. He hopes it also has what he calls a "multiplier effect."

"There should be another 300, 400, or 500 jobs spun off from that from suppliers to the mill, to truck drivers, to people working at the port. Hopefully new clerks in the stores, new waitresses," Scoville said.

The county's economic development office says there are many projects in the works to bring new business and jobs to town, and getting the Georgetown Port dredged is a top priority to allow bigger boats to dock.

Over at the chamber of commerce, President Annette Fisher says tourism helps boost the town's economy. A new town ordinance is in the works to allow horse-drawn carriage tours.

"We definitely support the horse drawn carriage tours. That would be one more thing we have to promote with our marketing and our visitor's center," Fisher said.

A steel mill spokesperson says they plan to restart Georgetown operations up in full by the first quarter of next year. They are evaluating workforce and maintenance needs at this time.

Horse drawn carriage tours would serve the historic district only. The town council could vote on the ordinance by next month.

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