PICKENS COUNTY — Sweeping changes have already come to Pickens County in the past year, from the consolidation of the Liberty Fire Department and the revamping of the county’s animal control, to groundbreaking on the new new jail facility.
But, according to Council Chairman Roy Costner and Vice Chairman Chris Bowers, all of this is just the beginning.
“I’m in sales and marketing so I’m all about branding,” said Costner. “I work in Greenville and I make that drive every day and do you know what our (Pickens County’s) brand is? We’re rednecks in red clay.”
Costner said re-branding the county and bringing in more industry and tourism had become council’s number one goal.
“I know we’re not rednecks in red clay. I know we’re so much more than that,” he said. “Pickens County is one of the most beautiful areas. It’s time to show others what we here already know.”
One of the spots being closely looked at for generating tourism dollars is S.C. 11.
“I want to paint for you a ‘what if,’” said Costner. “What if we had a place on Highway 11 that preserved our natural resources — that wasn’t an eyesore, but was built into the area — and was a resort type place?”
Costner said a fully realized tourism aimed development could be billed as “The gateway to the Appalachians.”
“We have all these great resources here — Hagood Mill, waterfalls, hiking, camping — but we’re not a drive to destination. We’re a drive through destination,” he said.
“Greenville can have their metropolitan area, we have the best playground in the world,” Costner said. “Imagine people staying at this resort and there’s vans: this one takes you kayaking, this one takes you fishing, this one takes you mountain biking … Those are the things we’re looking at. Imagine the revenue that could be generated by people coming to the county.”
Bowers said his vision was in sync with Costner’s but it wasn’t just about tourism dollars, it was also about jobs.
“I live here, I work here, my family owns a business here. I am very community minded and I believe in taking an active part in your community but I know a lot of people who live here and they work in Greenville, Anderson — or they drive to Spartanburg,” he said. “We raise our kids, we educate them and then when it comes time for them to join the work force, they leave. Because that’s where the jobs are.”
Communication between the different aspects of local government is key to the county moving forward as a whole, he said.
“For whatever reason, communication in the past was almost non-existent. Before we were even sworn into office, we went around to everyone and asked them what it was they needed,” said Bowers. “If the Mayor of Easley needs something, I want him to be able to pick up the phone and call me. Along those same lines, if I need something from Mayor Bagwell, I want to able to call him. Now, he might tell me no — and that’s OK — but that communication needs to be there.
“Friction is a good thing sometimes,” he said. “It leads to change. Positive change.”
Bowers stated that for too long the county had been operating a certain way for no other reason than “that’s the way it’s always been.”
“Sometimes you have to take a hard look at things, and that can be uncomfortable,” he said. “Change just for the sake of change, isn’t a valid enough reason. But on the other hand, never changing — remaining static — is just as unproductive. If we want this county to move forward, we have to be willing to take that hard look.”
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.