The City of Sumter received a Municipal Achievement Award for its community investment efforts. Officials accepted the award during the Municipal Association of South Carolina's Annual Meeting on July 16. The city won in the economic development category. Twenty-six cities and towns submitted their projects and initiatives.
City of Sumter officials were struggling to find new or alternative funding sources to attract new businesses and industry to the area.
Joining an effort initiated by the local chamber of commerce, city and county officials agreed to collectively encourage the community to invest in itself by passing a county-wide penny capital projects sales tax. The stakeholders, with input from the community, created a list of 16 capital projects that the new sales tax would fund, primarily infrastructure and asset improvements, such as recreation, public safety, utilities and education.
Then, city, county and chamber officials worked together to show residents the potential return on investment. Voters agreed to add the new tax in 2008. The $75 million generated by the penny tax over a seven-year period has transformed the community.
Today, the Patriot Park Athletic Complex hosts large tournaments drawing visitors from all over the southeast, with a $10 million dollar impact on the local economy. Penny investments upgraded utilities, rehabilitated downtown retail facilities and provided safer intersection crossings in downtown Sumter. This investment led to upper story housing, additional retail shops and a new hotel.
Proceeds from the capital projects sales tax also went to other projects to support economic growth, such as water and wastewater expansions, industrial park infrastructure and road improvements. The community is reaping the benefits of the investment it made in itself, including landing one of the state's largest economic development projects, Continental Tire.
Voters renewed the tax in 2014. The tax revenues will fund 28 additional improvement projects.
"Thanks to a strong plan and strong community support, the City of Sumter remains poised for growth," said Miriam Hair, executive director for the Municipal Association.
These winning entries represent innovative projects undertaken by Municipal Association member cities and towns. More information and a video about the project are available on the Association's website www.masc.sc (keyword: Achievement Awards).
The Municipal Association of South Carolina initiated the Achievement Awards in 1987 to recognize and encourage innovations and excellence in local government.