McDuffie County joined forces Monday with four nearby counties in a collaborative venture to lure economic development and promote tourism.
The five-year agreement, called the Clarks Hill Partnership, will enable Columbia, McDuffie, Lincoln, Wilkes and Warren counties to pool their resources for mutual benefit, said Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross.
"This is a historical day, but it will lead to many historic things in the future that will outshadow this event," Mr. Cross told leaders from participating counties who ratified the partnership during a luncheon at Savannah Rapids Pavilion.
The agreement calls for a steering committee with two representatives from each county who will meet quarterly. McDuffie County will be represented by County Manager Don Norton and Thomson Mayor Bob Knox, Jr.
In particular, Thomson-McDuffie County has an important drawing card for the partnership in the form of a regional airport that could be expanded to accommodate larger aircraft and help promote tourism.
"That airport expansion will be a top priority because it can affect all five counties," said Columbia County Administrator Steve Szablewski, another steering committee member.
The counties hope to use Clarks Hill Lake as a central theme and drawing card to promote tourism, attract new industries and seek out available grants for projects that will benefit¬† the region, said Walker Norman, chairman of Lincoln County's Board of Commissioners.
One major project involves a proposed $43 million resort near the lake in Lincoln County, and the other involves getting funds needed to complete major road expansions.
"We need Washington Road four-laned at least to the county line," he said. "And we need Highway 43 four-laned from the county line to Thomson."