Eleven years after it was announced as one of the largest economic investments in Sumter County history, the long-stalled Biopure project is one step away from being put to rest.
Sumter County Council approved second reading Tuesday of an ordinance that restructures its multi-county industrial parks, including removing all incentives previously approved for the $100 million facility that was never built.
"We've known for years that wasn't going to happen," said Councilman Charles Edens, who along with Naomi Sanders is one of the only council members remaining on council from the time the Biopure deal was approved. "Our attorney just found this and decided we should do some house-cleaning."
Back in 2002, Sumter County approved a multi-county park along with Clarendon and Lee counties to house the Biopure facility, which would have been used to develop a source of artificial blood suitable for transfusions. At the time, the plant represented the largest economic development deal in the county's history, with an investment between $110 and $120 million and the creation of 185 jobs. Land owned by Black River Electric Cooperative near the Sumter Airport was selected to host the building.
But as time went on, the company never came up with the funding to go forward with the project, and on July 23, council moved ahead with the proposal to end the agreement once and for all. "It's been six or seven years since I've heard anything about (Biopure)," Sanders said. "We were hoping it could come, but it's just been sitting there and nothing's happened."
Along with ending the proposed multi-county park, the repeal ordinance ends a proposed county bond to help fund the project that was never issued.
The proposed ordinance also repeals portions of ordinances affecting at least four other industries operating in Sumter as part of multi-county parks. The change complies with a portion of the county budget passed at the end of June, which sets aside 20 percent of funds generated by such parks into the county's infrastructure fund. Previously, the infrastructure fund was filled by money from expanded operations while the initial industry continued to operate under a separate fee-in-lieu-of-tax agreement. The new budget simplifies the formula by using a percentage of fees from the total operation.
Final reading of the ordinance will follow a public hearing at council's Aug. 27 meeting.