September 9, 2013

Lexington Co. adds Lee Co. economic developer

Jeff Burgess has left Lee County to accept a position with the Lexington County Economic Development Department.

Jeff Burgess has left Lee County to accept a position with the Lexington County Economic Development Department.

After serving 10 years as the executive director of the Lee County Economic Alliance, he worked his last day in Lee County on Friday and began a new job as project manager in Lexington County on Monday.

Burgess said he feels good about the potential for economic growth in Lee County.

"The (county) council and administrator have been awesome to work with," he said." I think we've accomplished a lot, but there's still so much more to do. You can never leave a position knowing you've done everything that needs to be done. ... We had some success stories. Did we want more? I think we were well on our way had the economy not turned sour.

"In a rural community, we feel it first when it goes south and we feel it last when it starts to improve. We were doing the right things. We were being coached by the (state) Department of Commerce. I think county council and the Economic Development Alliance need to continue to follow their lead. It's always going to take a little more effort to recruit industry in a small, rural community."

Lee County Administrator Alan Watkins said Burgess was responsible for recruiting several industries to the county, including Ahlstrom, Kelve, Mar-Tech Solutions and RBC Bearings.

Burgess was also able to obtain grants to enhance and certify the county's two existing industrial parks. He also played a role in obtaining and overseeing more than $2 million in upgrades to the downtown area, including Streetscape, and he helped local businessmen obtain small business loans.

"I believe that any objective review of Jeff's time in the county would confirm that the county is better off today from a standpoint of recruiting industry than when Jeff came to Lee County," Watkins said. "Jeff has a very strong relationship with the Department of Commerce, having worked there before coming to Lee County. His relationships with the project managers that oversee prospect development have been very valuable. Jeff has been very easy to work with during my tenure. He is a team player and has always been willing to help with projects outside his area, such as writing grants across county departments."

Burgess' salary was $79,500, Watkins said.

County council will now take the time to develop a strategy with regards to economic development and how the county markets itself for economic development in the future, Watkins said.

"The Economic Development Alliance Board as well as our partners at South Carolina Central Alliance will be consulted during this review process," he said. "The county council is firmly committed to economic development as one of our primary areas of focus. The county will continue to invest in this area and we want to ensure that we maximize our investment and give our county the best possible chance for success."

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