“If you are coming here, you are coming here on purpose or else you got really lost,” Greenwood Mayor Brandon Smith said.
He was talking about how Greenwood is one of the larger communities in the South without an interstate running through it as part of a larger conversation about building business in Greenwood.
Smith joined Greenwood Association of Realtors President Ann Gunby, Main and Maxwell Gallery owner Laura Bachinski and Anointed Hands Driving School owner Danny Webb in a virtual town hall meeting Monday hosted by Denise Waldrep, the Democratic candidate for the state House 13 seat currently represented by Rep. John McCravy.
“Times have changed,” Smith said.
He said the city had a wealth of industries more than 40 years ago. Now, most of those industries are in the county.
Smith acknowledged the Index-Journal’s reporting about city revenue declines being a problem for 2021’s budget.
“What we are worried about is next year,” Smith said.
Waldrep asked other business owners how their businesses have survived during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been a challenge,” Bachinski said. “This has been a real struggle for us.”
Bachinski said Main and Maxwell Gallery is a “want-based business.” She said if it were not for the Paycheck Protection Program loan that her business received, the gallery would have had to close.
Bachinski said there is a lot of help from the Uptown Development Corp. for businesses in Uptown but businesses need another kind of help.
“I wish there was more support from our community in the sense of shoppers,” Bachinski said.
Gunby said the Greenwood real estate market is still strong. She said there is still a shortage of houses.
When the local option sales tax initiative came up, Smith said the ballot initiative is a “property tax reduction” initiative.
Waldrep asked how the penny sales tax, which is being marketed as “BOOST,” would affect lower-income residents.
Smith said they wanted to exclude groceries from the local option sales taxes, but state law does not allow it.
“We are doing everything we can to make it a win-win for everyone,” Smith said.
Smith said the sales tax would allow Greenwood to benefit from tourism and residents from other areas who spend money in Greenwood.
“I spend my money locally when I can,” Webb said. “We need to keep our resources locally.”
Greenwood’s mayor also addressed what Greenwood Partnership Alliance’s dissolution will mean for the city.
Greenwood County Council voted in May to remove its $300,000 contribution from GPA, which led to other members ending their financial support of the public-private partnership and the resignation of CEO Heather Simmons Jones. GPA’s board of directors voted last month to start the dissolution process.
“I hate to see it go,” Smith said, but he is optimistic about the county taking the reins on economic development.
The county designated County Manager Toby Chappell as the official point of contact for economic development in Greenwood County and hired James Bateman, formerly GPA’s director of business development, to serve as the county’s interim economic development director.
“I think you will see how everything shakes out real soon,” Smith said.