High school seniors in the Upper Savannah Workforce Area will soon be learning who might hire them and what kind of training is available as they take the “next step” after graduation.
Upper Savannah workforce staff created a “Your Next Step After Graduation” directory of employers who hire recent high school graduates and are distributing to all graduating seniors at public high schools in the Upper Savannah Workforce Area.
The Area includes Abbeville (112 seniors), Dixie (68), Strom Thurmond (175), Emerald (179), Greenwood (309), Ninety Six (106), Ware Shoals (59), Laurens (307), Clinton (192), McCormick (45), Mid-Carolina (175), Newberry (134), Whitmire (51) and Saluda (126) high schools. There are more than 2,000 Area graduates in the Class of 2021.
The directory includes an alphabetical listing of approximately 100 companies in the Area which responded to a survey indicating they hire current high school students and recent graduates. The directory includes additional information such as website addresses and whether they offer flexible hours, tuition reimbursement, etc.
“The state of South Carolina wanted us to engage with high school students because that is untapped talent for employers who are screaming that they need people,” said Upper Savannah Workforce Development Deputy Director Billy Morgan, who played a major role in production of the directory.
“Not every high school student is going straight to college, and people who are going to college are looking for part-time jobs or jobs with flexible schedules so they can go to school at the same time.”
The directory funded by an S.C. Workforce Development Board grant also provides information about training opportunities and assistance available for several health care programs to automotive technology, mechatronics, HVAC and welding, and several others.
The directory also includes encouraging tidbits for seniors making that next step, stressing the importance of an up-to-date resume, a good phone number, and a professional e-mail address.
The directory also includes quotes about the importance of putting forth effort, being punctual, showing the willingness to learn, and exhibiting good work ethic.
The directory also shares several interview tips that stress strong communication skills needed to land a good job.
Another page is filled with helpful tips for graduates such as not making an education or career choice based on what friends are doing, never passing up an opportunity to meet someone new, and making time to look for part-time jobs, internships or volunteer opportunities.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 is a $1.9 trillion emergency relief bill, providing approximately $350 billion to states, territories, tribes, counties and municipalities to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency, offset revenue losses, bolster economic recovery and provide premium pay for essential workers.
The Act will provide approximately $42.6 million to the six counties in the Upper Savannah Region and approximately $25,960,000 to the Region’s 24 cities and towns, according to published reports.
The U.S. Department of Treasury is expected to release definitive guidance on how the funds may be spent. However, there is no timeline on when that guidance will be released according to the Municipal Association of South Carolina (MASC).
MASC strongly recommends cities and towns refrain from spending any funds they receive until that guidance is released. Spending the funds on unauthorized uses could result in a city or town having to repay those funds to the federal government. The same would apply to counties.
Initial estimates have been released. However, they cannot be relied upon as Treasury is still working to finalize the distribution amounts. The Municipal Association recommends not using any of the estimates that are circulating for planning purposes.
Funding will be distributed in two tranches. The first tranche will be distributed within 60 days of enactment of the law, and the second tranche will be distributed 12 months after the first is paid.
The funds may be used to:
- Respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality.
- Respond to workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency by providing premium pay to eligible workers that are performing such essential work, or by providing grants to eligible employers that have eligible workers who perform essential work.
- Provide government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue due to the COVID-19 public health emergency relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year prior to the emergency.
- Make necessary investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.
American Rescue Plan Local Allocation Estimates*
|Abbeville County||4.76 million|
|City of Abbeville||1.87 million|
|Town of Calhoun Falls||710,000|
|Town of Donalds||120,000|
|Town of Due West||450,000|
|Town of Lowndesville||40,000|
|Edgefield County||5.29 million|
|Town of Edgefield||1.8 million|
|Town of Johnston||890,000|
|Town of Trenton||70,000|
|Greenwood County||13.73 million|
|City of Greenwood||8.74 million|
|Town of Hodges||60,000|
|Town of Ninety Six||760,000|
|Town of Troy||40,000|
|Town of Ware Shoals||800,000|
|Laurens County||13.09 million|
|City of Clinton||3.13 million|
|Town of Cross Hill||190,000|
|Town of Gray Court||310,000|
|City of Laurens||3.31 million|
|Town of Waterloo||60,000|
|McCormick County||1.84 million|
|Town of McCormick||880,000|
|Town of Parksville||40,000|
|Town of Plum Branch||30,000|
|Saluda County||3.97 million|
|Town of Ridge Spring||280,000|
|Town of Saluda||1.35 million|
|Town of Ward||30,000|
* Allocation Estimates provided by Municipal Association of SC website
Upper Savannah workforce development staff recently learned there is a shortage of emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics in the Region and sought funding to fix the situation.
Upper Savannah COG applied for and recently received a $500,000 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to train 100 emergency medical services (EMS) personnel in Abbeville, Edgefield, Greenwood, Laurens, McCormick, Newberry and Saluda counties. The grant award was announced this month.
“The goal is to expand the pool of EMT basic all the way to advanced paramedics,” Upper Savannah COG Workforce Development Administrator Ann Skinner said.
This is a four-year grant applied jointly with the Pee Dee Council of Governments in Florence. The Pee Dee Region will receive $2 million.
“We applied together to increase the chances of the grant being funded,” Skinner said. “But there were statewide issues that we thought we could work on together. The Pee Dee grant is focused more on careers leading to nursing and is hospital-based. Ours is based with the county EMS services.”
According to a recent survey conducted by Piedmont Technical College (PTC), each county in the Upper Savannah Region had vacancies due to a lack of skilled applicants and staff turnover. Greenwood County had 17 vacancies, Laurens eight, Newberry and Edgefield five apiece, Saluda and Abbeville four apiece, and McCormick three.
The grant period begins Feb. 1, 2021, when Upper Savannah can begin to enroll trainees and pay for classes. PTC will be the educational provider while USCOG will administer the grant.
“We are going to have a boot camp this summer for recent high school graduates who are interested in becoming an EMT or paramedic,” Skinner said. “During the summer, they will receive training for basic EMT.
“After the end of the summer, they will have the chance to continue on with school to work toward becoming a paramedic or they will have an opportunity to go to work for one of the seven county EMS systems who are hiring. And if they go to work as an EMT, they can earn a living and continue school part-time to enhance their credentials and earn more.”
The grant will promote more than just the basic EMT curriculum.
“We interviewed Human Resources directors who do exit interviews and asked, ‘why do people quit EMT?’” Skinner said. The answers included stress, long hours and the physical aspects of the job.
“So we will build the boot camp around a retention model,” she said. “Some of the things we have built into the boot camp is some mentoring and counseling so that they can prepare themselves for the emotional and physical aspects of the job.
“We are building into the curriculum weight training. If they are coming straight out of high school, they might not have the physical stamina to lift a patient, so we are building in weight training through the Greenwood YMCA.”
Trainees will also be taught how to sleep.
“There are strategies for how to go to sleep. If you are working a shift job and you can’t go to sleep, you are tired, you can be dangerous, you burn out quickly,” Skinner said.
She said USCOG will work with county EMS directors to make sure they have trained staff to fill their open positions and tailor the training to meet their needs. Having full staffs can reduce overtime and even worker’s compensation cases.
County governments have worked hard to meet local needs during the pandemic. Getting a larger pool of available workers will reduce overtime costs.
This was Upper Savannah’s first-ever workforce development federal grant application and the successful award is a win for everybody in the region.
“Every resident wants fast, professional emergency medical services,” Skinner said. “They want to know if they have a need, that they can call and somebody will come. It’s a universal need.”
The Town of McCormick has received a $750,000 grant award in the Fall 2020 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Community Enrichment, Neighborhood Revitalization and Special Projects Round, the S.C. Department of Commerce announced Dec. 8.
Upper Savannah COG Community Development staff submitted the application on behalf of the Town. Fifteen grants were awarded statewide. McCormick’s grant award of $750,000 is the largest of the 15.
CDBG funds were requested to continue the Town of McCormick’s previous streetscape efforts by improving intersections, restriping parking stalls and crosswalks, landscaping, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible parking, and fencing along the railroad. The project will address the need to provide a safe pedestrian route for residents in the Town.
The project will focus on streetscape improvements on W. Augusta and N. Main streets. Sidewalks will be upgraded to meet current standards and new curb and gutter will be installed.
New ADA compliant handicapped parking will be added, and ADA features will be added for sidewalk and crosswalk access. The asphalt will also be upgraded. Intersection improvements will be made, lines will be repainted, and necessary signage will be installed.
A safe landscaped pedestrian walkway will be added between Town Hall and the McCormick County SC Works building, providing safe pedestrian access to and from the improved public parking area behind Town Hall.
Landscaping will be added throughout the project area providing shade and beautification, consistent with the previously completed Main Street Streetscape also with CDBG funding.
Brick pavers will be used to install a speed table and plaza in front of Town Hall. This will help reduce vehicle speeds down W. Augusta Street, and enhance public safety at park access point. A seat wall/retaining wall and benches will be installed as a focal point and link to the entrance of the park. Security cameras will be installed in the project area to provide additional public safety.
Businesses which were temporarily forced to close, experienced loss of revenue or were otherwise negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic might be eligible for business loans from the new Upper Savannah CARES Revolving Loan Fund (CARES RLF). Also, businesses whose products or services are in high demand due to the pandemic could be eligible.
The lending area includes Abbeville, Edgefield, Greenwood, Laurens, Lexington, McCormick, Newberry and Saluda counties.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided $1.5 billion to the EDA for economic development assistance programs to “help communities prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” As part of the CARES Act, funding was provided to expand Upper Savannah’s RLF capacity.
The total available in the new CARES RLF is $760,000.
Working capital loans of up to $50,000 are available at terms of up to five years at a 1 percent fixed rate. Real estate and equipment loans of up to $100,000 are available at terms of up to 15 years at a 2.5 percent fixed rate. This is not a forgivable loan.
“We are very fortunate to be able to receive these new CARES Act RLF funds on behalf of our Upper Savannah region,” said Upper Savannah Assistant Director Sam Leaman, who administers the loans.
“These funds will not only help businesses survive the economic fallout from this pandemic but provide economic resiliency going forward,” he said.
Leaman has operated the original RLF since it was created 32 years ago to be an alternative funding source available to start-up and expanding businesses in the Upper Savannah Council of Governments region of Abbeville, Edgefield, Greenwood, Laurens, McCormick and Saluda counties. In 2015, Newberry and Lexington counties were added to the eligible list of counties.
Generally, this program is designed to fill the gap between the financing available from traditional private sector sources (i.e. bank loans and equity) and the total financing need. To be eligible, these projects must result in the creation of permanent jobs and leverage private sector investment. This RLF continues to operate and has funds available but at less attractive terms.
The new CARES RLF is available to businesses partially or completely closed by local or state officials to stop the spread of the coronavirus such as restaurants, certain retail stores, personal services, etc.
Loans are also available to businesses forced to close or curtail operations due to employees testing positive for the coronavirus.
Businesses experiencing loss of revenue due to the general economic downturn or logistical problems are also eligible as well as those negatively impacted by other factors linked to the pandemic.
Businesses whose products or services are in high demand due to the virus will also be targeted for lending. For example, there are businesses in the Upper Savannah Region that manufacture medical supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, and components for medical equipment.
Borrowers, lenders and others interested in helping small businesses are encouraged to call Leaman at 864-941-8056 for more information.
Many job seekers and employers have received help from the SC Works System, family members have benefited when an aging parent receives home-delivered meals or transportation to the doctor, and thousands of residents are enjoying better water and sewer service thanks to grant awards to their communities.
These are just a few of the activities citizens in Abbeville, Edgefield, Greenwood, Laurens, McCormick and Saluda counties might be familiar with through actual experiences. But many do not know the significant role that the Upper Savannah Council of Governments (USCOG) plays in these services.
Information about these services is now easier to access.
With the help of local company AJ Design and Marketing LLC, USCOG recently redesigned its website www.uppersavannah.com. The website provides information on these activities as well as a staff list of contacts.
The website can also be an important tool for community leaders who are seeking assistance for their counties, cities and towns. The website includes Census statistics for each of the six counties and their 24 municipalities in the Upper Savannah Region as well as information about COVID-19 relief funding available to eligible small businesses.
“I am really excited about our new look,” said Upper Savannah Office Assistant Shannon Hill, who assisted with the website update created by AJ Design and Marketing’s Andy Johnston. “Our website is so much easier to view and use, and it is easily accessible on mobile devices.
“The internet is usually the first go to place when looking for help and this site will keep us connected,” Hill continued. “As someone that has been a part of bringing this all together, I am so proud of the final product and can’t wait for others to see it.”
Upper Savannah COG was the first multi-county planning and development organization to be created in South Carolina (in 1967) when Governor Robert E. McNair signed legislation establishing 10 planning districts.
Other planning district (councils of government) office locations in South Carolina include Greenville, Aiken, Rock Hill, Columbia, Florence, Georgetown, North Charleston, Sumter and Yemassee. Information about the other planning districts can be accessed at www.sccogs.org.
USCOG assists with a wide scope of services including help for senior citizens and persons with disabilities, workforce development assistance for employers and job seekers, community development with a focus on community improvements and infrastructure (water and sewer), grant writing and administration, transportation planning, as well as loans to small businesses and other economic development activities for the purpose of saving and creating jobs.
USCOG also offers consultation and technical assistance to local governments on a day-to-day basis. Upper Savannah provides training for elected officials and has hosted numerous workshops to get planning commissioners, zoning appeals board members and staff certified.
USCOG’s imprint is all over the Region, ranging from its partnership in making Highway 72 four lanes (transportation planning) from Interstate 26 to the Georgia border, to helping bring in new industries by providing their sites with water and sewer service (economic development grants), to downtown revitalization projects in several cities and towns (community development grants), to establishing the Upper Savannah Regional Job Fair in partnership with Piedmont Technical College and other agencies (workforce development).
While this imprint will remain for decades, the individual needs of the region’s citizens grow daily. For instance, a job seeker needs to connect with an employer or learn about training for a new vocation. Or a concerned family member needs the comfort of knowing that home-delivered meals, transportation or home care is available to their aging parent, grandparent or sibling. USCOG’s redesigned website will help residents find information about these services.
The Upper Savannah region received three grant awards in the Spring 2020 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Infrastructure Round, the S.C. Department of Commerce announced last week.
Upper Savannah COG Community Development staff submitted three grant applications in the round and all three were awarded. Twenty-three grants were awarded statewide.
The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application deadline was moved back twice due to COVID-19 restrictions, from mid-April to June 15 and finally to July 1.
The City of Clinton, Greenwood County and Laurens County received grant awards.
The Clinton Mill Sewer Upgrade will be funded with $750,000 from CDBG, $500,000 from the Rural Infrasctructure Authority (RIA), and a $149,720 local match for a total project cost of $1,399.720.
The project involves upgrading sewer lines in Clinton Mill Village area, an LMI neighborhood in City of Clinton. The City is currently under Consent Order from SCDHEC due to sanitary sewer overflows in collection system. Proposed project would aid in reduction of inflow and infiltration to the City’s collection system. Project improvement would benefit an estimated 180 units.
Greenwood County will receive $750,000 in CDBG funds with a $262,317 local match for a total of $1,012,317 for the Baptist Sewer Upgrade. The project involves upgrading sewer lines in the Baptist Avenue Area in Greenwood.
The area includes Gilliam Avenue, Baptist Avenue, Evans Street, Percival Avenue, Singleton Street, Byrd Street, Tanyard Avenue, Bay Street and Milwee Avenue. The project will benefit an estimated 90 units.
The Laurens County Highway 56/76 Sewer Upgrades project will receive $715,000 in CDBG funding and a $120,000 local match for total project cost of $835,000. The project proposes to repair two major sections of trunk line at the intersections of Hwy 76/Springdale Drive and Hwy 56/Springdale Drive.
Improvements to intersections will include installing new lines, pipes and manholes and reconnection of force mains. The improvements will benefit an estimated 2,300 units, approximately half the City of Clinton’s population.
USCOG staff partnered with United Way of Laurens County and the U.S. Bureau of the Census to offer an opportunity for Laurens County residents to complete their Census forms as they picked up free school supplies for their children. The event was timely as South Carolina ranks 46th nationally in Census response rates.
A total of 12 families had not completed their Census form as of the event on September 3 in Clinton. Census staff brought iPads to fill out the forms online for the families as they socially distanced in their cars for the drive-thru supply distribution.
The lucky first 10 families who filled out their Census form received a gift card to Wal-Mart from funds applied for by USCOG. The Census can still be filled out online at my2020Census.gov or over the phone at 1-844-330-2020 until Sept. 30, 2020.
Upper Savannah Government Services Director Rick Green said that with the deadline approaching, there is a lot of catching up to do in South Carolina.
“Right now, South Carolina ranks 46th in response rates among the 50 states,” said Green, who assisted the Census Bureau at the Laurens County event. “Only one of our six counties is slightly over the state response rate. We have a lot of ground to cover to improve.”
Green is concentrating on senior citizens filling out their forms.
“Typically, senior citizens have a lower online response rate,” he said. “I’m working with our Aging Division staff to find some more opportunities to partner with groups who might serve seniors and other hard-to-reach groups in the region.
“COVID-19 requirements don’t make any of this type of in-person, data gathering activity any easier.”
Green said accurate Census counts are critical in Upper Savannah’s efforts to bring funding to the region.
“Census is important to what we all do at Upper Savannah and how we do it,” he said. “If we get an undercount, we lose resources to other areas that got a better count. If we lose resources, we can’t help our local governments and the people in the region as well.
“We need to push through the end of September and try to get as many people to respond online as possible. These Census numbers will impact funding and resources over the next 10 years and we can’t afford to lose out.”
Upper Savannah COG has won a 2020 NADO (National Association of Development Organizations) Aliceann Wohlbruck Impact Award for its involvement in the Town of Ridge Spring Town Square Plaza Project.
The Saluda County town of 910 people was able to redevelop a small parking area into a plaza to accommodate both more parking to support customers of adjacent businesses and an outdoor space for community events and festivals.
Businesses line both sides of Highway 23 and one side of the Town Square that is located between Highway 23 and the railroad line. During the day, the Square’s few parking places were quickly filled during busy times. People would park along any available spot to do business in the Central Business District.
These illegally parked vehicles and the lack of continuous sidewalks contributed to a dangerous environment for pedestrians. There was no marked crosswalk and access for those who may have a disability was limited.
The Town wanted to improve parking and make the area safer while at the same time creating an area for town events and festivals. Plans were drawn up to address the needs expressed by the elected officials, town merchants, and the public.
USCOG helped the town put its ideas into a grant application for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program and that application was eventually funded in December 2018.
Work began on the CDBG project in November 2019 and was recently completed with Upper Savannah’s Community Development staff administering the project.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC DHEC) assisted the Town in conducting a sidewalk survey and in developing a plan to encourage more residents to walk and be active. Upper Savannah also participated in the sidewalk survey.
Now the Town has improved and expanded parking (from approximately 25 to 46 spaces), safer sidewalks, a dedicated crosswalk, and a new venue for Town events.
The Town also has a location for a new downtown farmer’s market. A replica railroad water tank with the town logo has been added as a park feature in the plaza. The Town is also applying for a CDBG grant for a second phase of this project to be submitted in September 2020.
The award was one of six claimed by South Carolina councils of government and 79 nationally who are members of NADO. The Impact Awards program honors NADO members for their creative approaches to advancing regional economic development and improved quality of life.
These projects have made significant impacts on their regions and demonstrate the diversity of services and program delivery provided by regional development organizations across the country. The 2020 class of awardees consists of projects from 48 organizations spanning 19 states.