Local Economic and Fiscal Impacts of a Planned Retirement Community in South Carolina
David L. Barkley and Mark S. Henry
For many years, McCormick County served as the "poster child" for rural economic development in South Carolina. McCormick's residents (7,800 in 1980) exhibited all of the characteristics associated with geographic isolation and an absence of economic opportunity. In the early 1980s, the unemployment rate hovered around 15 percent, per capita income remained below 60 percent of the U.S. average, more than one-fourth of the households lived in poverty, and approximately 60 percent of the adult population had less than a high school degree. Tax revenues for public goods and services were limited by low property values resulting from extensive forest lands (31 percent of county land area is in public lands).
In response to the economic development needs of McCormick County and surrounding areas, the state of South Carolina established the Savannnah Valley Authority to plan and stimulate economic development in the upper Savannah River Valley. In 1986, the Savannah Valley Authority obtained 3,159 acres of federal land in McCormick County for development. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land was obtained as compensation for state land needed for construction of Clarks Hill Reservoir (later Lake Thurmond). Accordingly, there was little net impact on McCormick County fees in lieu of taxes. Proposals were requested to determine how to develop the property in a way that would enhance local economic development and expand the county tax base. In 1987, Cooper Communities, Inc., a residential development company based in Bella Vista,