Seize the opportunity

Published 1:04 am Wednesday, September 17, 2014

To the editor:

Robert Williamson, Interim Director of the Polk County Economic Development Commission, recently spoke to the Landrum Area Business Association on the subject of the soon to be Tryon International Equestrian Center & Resort (Tryon Resort). Robert shared with the group the facts concerning what we know already about the economic impact of the facilities at Wellington, Fla. and the projected economic impact that we will experience here in upper Spartanburg County and Polk County. The Tryon Resort will bring to this area an opportunity of the sort we have not seen in many years.

When I think about opportunities you don’t have to look far. All you have to do is look at a map of South Carolina. If you were an engineer and given the task of building an Interstate Highway from Spartanburg to Columbia you would probably want to consider the most direct route. If you drew a straight line from these two cities the most direct route would take you through Union County, through Union, Jonesville and Pacolet and down the old Highway 176. That would have made sense. It was not only the most direct route but also you had existing towns that would have benefited from the economic boom that the new highway would have brought. The leadership along this preferred route resisted and the Interstate was redirected to Clinton and skirted Union County and even today those towns struggle with economic development.

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Look at the map again and imagine that you are an engineer for the railroad seeking to establish a route from Spartanburg to Asheville. The best route is through Sandy Plain, Mill Spring and Lake Lure. The grade is less severe and the cost would be less. There is a second route but the grade to get over the mountain would be steeper than any grade in the eastern United States. The people along the preferred route did not want the railroad to interfere with their way of life and so the railroad was built along the more challenging route and towns along the way, Inman, Campobello, Landrum, Tryon, Saluda sprung up as the positive economic impact was felt.

Spartanburg in the 1950’s had a great presence among racecar enthusiasts; David Pearson, Cotton Owens, Bud Moore and others. NASCAR was looking for a place to build a racetrack, a super track. Spartanburg was on the short list as the place to build this super track but local leadership resisted and the racetrack was built in Talladega, Ala. Think about the economic impact that was lost due to the decision to remain with the status quo.

Here we are again at a crossroads, how will we respond? Just as the railroad, the interstate and the racetrack were built so will the Tryon Resort be built. Will the municipalities closest to the new facility, Columbus, Landrum, Tryon and Saluda seize the opportunity, work in a proactive way to insure we all benefit from this great opportunity or will we stick to what we are comfortable with, the status quo? Ten, 20, 50 years from now history will judge us. My hope is that we choose to take advantage of this opportunity and work and plan so that as this Tryon Resort develops we will be prepared to benefit from it and still hold on to the things about this area that we love.


Robert B. Briggs,
Landrum, S.C.