From the archives | Delighting in Dubai deal: Farmland yields 'Windfall'

Son of Santee farmers reaps $1 Million harvest

11/06/2007 7:04 PM

03/01/2008 7:07 PM

Sticky Rush went shopping after he made about $1 million selling the last of his family land near I-95 to a Dubai company.

The 78-year-old retiree deposited almost all of the money in the bank, and then he went to Wal-Mart, where he bought three pairs of navy blue Dickies coveralls for $31.

Then he bought some groceries and gas for his 1996 Toyota pickup. "So far, I've spent $53 of it."

As Rush said hello to the check in September, he also said goodbye to 150 acres, the last tract his family had farmed in Santee for generations.

The Rush tract is part of 1,324 acres in Orangeburg County acquired by Jafza International, a subsidiary of the royal family's Dubai World holding company. The company wants to build a complex of warehouses and facilities for sorting and re-packaging goods arriving from ports from Virginia to Georgia.

Rush, some other longtime Orangeburg County residents and a few investors received a total of $10 million for the entire tract. Jafza envisions the complex employing as many as 5,500 people on the site within eight years, and drawing investments of $600 million or more. "It's going to change the eastern partof Orangeburg County tremendously," Rush said. "It's going to create jobs; it's going to better the standard of living; it's going to raise incomes."

But it's not likely to increase per capita spending for the Rush household: himself and his 15- pound poodle, Whiskey.

Rush doesn't consider himself poor -- or stingy. Instead, he said, he has chosen to live modestly since he retired in 1979 as a master sergeant after 29 years in the Air Force. He moved into a mobile home park a few miles from the land he sold. He drives a 1996 Toyota Tacoma pickup and has a 1998 Ford as backup. Rush is a child of the 1930s.

Manly Hampton Rush Jr. was born in Santee on Oct. 29, 1929 -- a day that became known as Black Tuesday because of a stock market crash that preceded the Great Depression.

Rush's mother gave him his nickname, "Sticky," because of his fondness as a toddler for playing in the mud around their home.

Some of that Orangeburg County mud was on farmland tilled by his father, Manly Hampton Rush Sr., and his uncle, Tillman B. Rush. The Rush brothers were married to sisters and lived side by side.

Tillman Rush had no sons, so when Rush Jr. was born, Tillman asked his brother if he could raise his son. "You've already got two boys," Tillman said, according to Rush.

Rush Jr. grew up helping his uncle raise cotton, potatoes, wheat and oats. He plowed behind mules, fed animals and picked cotton in the fall.

And he saw changes that would change the area's way of life:

When Rush was 10, workers started clearing forests for Lake Marion, part of the mammoth Santee-Cooper hydro-electric project.

While he was in the Air Force in the 1960s, workers began building I-95 through Orangeburg

"This is a windfall for me. Now, my children tell me to spend it, but now I'm getting so old I don't have anything to spend it on. I could buy a new automobile, but I'm satisfied with my pickup truck."

STICKY RUSH, 78-year-old retiree, reflecting on what to do with his $1 million

County. Construction lasted nearly a decade before the stretch was completed about 1970.

Six acres of the interstate are on land Rush inherited in 1959 and sold for $1,440 in about 1968. Had he invested the gain in 10- year U.S. Treasury bonds -- a standard yardstick for comparing investment returns -- he would have about $28,000 today. That translates into about $4,700 per acre.

In January, he got an offer for his land from Jim Roquemore, a major area landowner and coowner of Patten Seed Co. and Super Sod farms.

Instead, Rush decided to enlist the help of Orangeburg lawyer Thomas B. Bryant III to handle the negotiations.

When he sold his 150 acres to Jafza last month, the price was about $6,300 per acre.

"This is a windfall for me," Rush said.

"Now, my children tell me to spend it, but now I'm getting so old I don't have anything to spend it on. I could buy a new automobile, but I'm satisfied with my pickup truck."

He said he might buy a paper shredder and a new television, noting that prices are falling on the big high-definition sets.

And he has charged one of his sons with finding an exercise bike.

"I told my son to go around the flea markets; you can buy one pretty cheap."

Reach DuPlessis at (803) 771-8305.

* * *

ORANGEBURG HISTORY

Orangeburg County grew cotton like no other in South Carolina in 1900, but its economic growth would be stunted through most of the last century as manufacturers bypassed the region.

Go to thestate.com to read the story.

* * *

Most of $10 million for Jafza project went to a few investors

Sticky Rush and other longtime Orangeburg County residents accounted for only a small part of the Jafza land deal.

A few investors received 85 percent of the $10 million paid by Jafza for the 1,324 acres that the Dubai World subsidiary will use for a logistics hub.

About $8.4 million was made by investors selling 1,113 acres in three groups of transactions:

-- * More than half the land was sold by Jim Roquemore and Ben Copeland, the co-owners of Patten Seed, which grows grass on thousands of acres for its Super Sod business. They sold 778 acres to Jafza for $4.7 million, or $6,000 per acre. Roquemore and Copeland had paid $2.2 million for the land in 2001 and 2002.

-- * Roquemore held a 19 percent stake in a 128-acre parcel he and five other local investors bought in February. They sold in September to Jafza for $776,820, twice what they paid for it.

Roquemore said he had paid $3,000 per acre for farmland that was then selling for about $1,000 to $2,000 per acre.

"When you start paying more than $2,000, it's scary," he said. "The risk was the deal was far from being done. They could have walked away."

Roquemore and Copeland still own about 4,000 acres in Orangeburg County and continue to grow grass there for Patten Seed's Super Sod business.

-- * The biggest gain per acre was made by a group of investors led by Miles Loadholt, co-owner of the Motley Rice law firm in Barnwell.

They spent $1 million in 1995 to buy 206 acres by an outlet shopping center along I-95 and sold the land for nearly $3 million in September.

Loadholt said the land commanded a large price because it fronted I-95 and a rail line, and is just a half mile north of U.S. 301.

Reach DuPlessis at (803) 771-8305.

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