Officials tout job growth in Sumter

Heavy machinery sits at the future site of Continental Tire off U.S. Highway 521 in Sumter County.

Sumter, S. C. (WACH) - Officials are hailing a series of major job announcements in the past year as a sign the region is turning the corner.

Sumter Countyâ??s jobless rate is still 10.3 percent, that's more than full percentage point ahead of the statewide average of 9.3 percent.

County leaders believe that number will fall.

In the five months since Continental Tire rolled into town with a $500 million investment and a promise of 1,700, Sumter Countyâ??s economic momentum continues.

Caterpillar added 100 jobs last week at its Jefferson Road facility, and international candy maker Auâ??some created 120 new jobs last month.

"One of the reasons why these companies are coming to Sumter is because we have a very good workforce,â?? said County Councilman Eugene Baten. "Theyâ??re technically trained, dedicated loyal, and hard working."

SC Works Director Toni White is also working hard to help equip those who are still unemployed with the skills they need to land a job once these new companies open their doors.

"Which is why on the front end, we get involved,â?? said White. â??Even though Continental Tire will be coming in another year, that gives us time to properly prepare those individuals."

White may be working overtime, economic officials are back on the trail recruiting more potential employers.

"We have more projects, I can't reveal them, can't talk about them,â?? adds Baten. â??But we have some more projects; that will really be coming out in the next year or so."

Continental Tireâ??s new facility will open sometime in 2014, thatâ??s when the first phase of new hires will get to work. An official ground breaking is scheduled for next week.