Opinion Extra

Fairfield County has been trying to die for 100 years. We always bounce back

The folks at the Barn Express in Winnsboro illustrate the best thing Fairfield County has going for it: its people.
The folks at the Barn Express in Winnsboro illustrate the best thing Fairfield County has going for it: its people. tglantz@thestate.com

‘Fairfield County has been trying to die for 100 years. But we always bounce back.”

That’s what a local judge told me last week over a plate of fried chicken, squash and butter beans at the best lunch buffet in the Midlands — Barn-X-Press on North Congress Street in Winnsboro. We were talking about the future of Fairfield County. Despite all the recent attention and rumors of our hometown’s death, our discussion was optimistic, even bullish.

It’s been a rough go as of late. I don’t need to hit the finer points on what we have lost. If you’re reading this, you’ve likely read the reports on plant closings and the report that made it sound like we’re losing all health-care services (we’re not). And of course V.C. Summer.

That day at lunch, as we sat in this restaurant known as the Barn, I saw the reason Fairfield County will make it through this downturn: her people.

I saw a volunteer firefighter and his wife at one table; his lifetime of voluntarily fighting fires embodies Fairfield County’s spirit of community.

BrownBoydV
Boyd Brown

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Nearby was a table of teachers who had spent their morning getting classrooms ready for the new year. You don’t read about Fairfield County schools with the same disappointment you once did because they are some of the fastest improving in the state. Our career center is the best in South Carolina, readying students for the future they will soon have to face, and Midlands Tech’s Winnsboro campus hums along.

In the buffet line, I talked to a woman known in the community for her social justice work, and she was working to make sure the recently unemployed know where to get retrained and apply for jobs.

There were two ministers of different races and denominations at another table. The faith that tomorrow is a better day has never dimmed in our little community. Our beliefs and our faith in God and one another keeps us all moving forward together. That common thread was on full display as neighbors caught up with one another over sweet potatoes and peach cobbler.

Boy, I’ve never been knocked down. I’m either up, or I’m getting up.

Muhammad Ali

And finally, I saw a retired couple from Blythewood. They go to church in Winnsboro and spent their careers in Fairfield County. They embody a larger trend of people moving to Lake Wateree and southern Fairfield County, most retirees, to slow down and enjoy the close-knit community and relaxed way of life. Some live in Fairfield County, some just outside of it, but they are all part of the greater community, and their impact is significant.

It’s easy to get worked up over the job losses, but I’m reminded of a story about Muhammad Ali. He was signing autographs one day and a young man said, “Champ, I saw Joe Frazier knock you down in Madison Square Garden.”

Ali replied: “No, you didn’t. Joe Frazier ain’t never knocked me down!”

Digging in, the boy adamantly replied: “I was there! I saw it! He knocked you down.”

To which the greatest of all time stated: “Boy, I’ve never been knocked down. I’m either up, or I’m getting up.”

Fairfield County has taken some hits, but it is getting up.

Fairfield County has taken some hits, but it is getting up.

Last month, Fairfield County’s airport was overhauled, making way for more executive planes, which has helped economic development in the past.

Just last week, plans for the new I-77 international megasite were revealed to a room full of impressed economic developers from around the state. It will one day be home to a manufacturer who employs no less than 2,000 hardworking citizens.

Later this year, the new Providence Health ambulatory care center will open its doors. This facility will maintain a long-term health-care option in Winnsboro and establish a partnership with larger services just minutes down I-77 at Farrow Road.

Fairfield County is not going to die. We’ll bounce back. We always do.

Existing manufacturers like LangMekra and Bomag continue to grow, while Breakthru Beverage continues to distribute much of your wine and liquor across the state. All three of those are located in the Ridgeway area.

Quiet Ridgeway is filled with tourists on the weekends, and Carolina Adventure World is too. The S.C. Railroad Museum is popular with young families and retirees alike, while sportsmen flock to Lake Wateree, Lake Monticello and our deer and turkey-filled forests. Our recreation commission is second to none, providing a well-run program with youth sports and great ballparks.

One thing is for sure: Fairfield County is not going to die. We’ll bounce back. We always do.

Come spend some time here, and you will see what we already know.

Mr. Brown represented Fairfield County in the S.C. House form 2008 through 2012; contact him at hboydbrown@gmail.com.

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