MARION, S.C. — Marion County Economic Development Director Julie Norman said she is adamant about putting resources toward a five-year strategic plan for the county.

“We’ve all got to be part of this,” she said of a collaborative effort from Marion County Economic Development Commission and Marion County Progress Inc. “This is going to go far deeper than anything that we have done before and there won’t be anything in it that can’t be achieved.”

Norman said her initial goal for 2025 is a need to focus on attracting and retaining young people along with the construction of a hotel.

“I think we need to be thinking beyond the immediate future and look at our next industrial park and address transportation within our own county and having a solid plan for how we’re going to have the amenities young people want and expect.”

Norman said with a new plan comes new expectations.

“This thing is so big it’s going to be huge for this county,” she said. “We never had a real professionally done strategic plan.”

County officials met back in 2013 to develop the last plan.

“To have a really solid strategic plan you got to take the data,” she said. “You have to really dig in to that data and research to see what we can achieve and how much it’s going to cost.”

Norman said she acquired grant funding to get consultation from Boyette Strategic Advisors for economic development strategic planning. Norman said Boyette will work with officials for an entire year to help implement the plan.

“Everybody needs to buy into this so each city is putting in money. The county is putting in money. Marion County Progress Inc. is putting in money and our industries are putting in money.”

Norman and a team of advisors have been conducting video calls to prepare for the June 24-25 planning sessions and interviews.

“There are 220 people that we’ve divided into groups to gather information,” Norman said. “That doesn’t’ even count the 150 people under that age of 40 that we have already surveyed.”

Norman said the process will help set the county’s direction for the next five years.

“It’s not just about how we can recruit industry,” she said. “We got all kinds of things we need to be dealing with before we get there. We have to address transportation, housing, arts and culture and infrastructure. How do we attract somebody under 40 to move here?”

Norman said addressing underlying issues that impact Marion County’s economic development will include benchmarks, accountability along with looking into entrepreneurships, sites and budgeting.

Formulating a plan will take additional two to four months, she said.

Born in Atlantic City; raised in Mullins. Graduated from SC State University, home of the mighty Bulldogs. Editor of the Marion Star & Mullins Enterprise. Loves spending free time with his daughter. Huge sports fan.

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