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Letter to the Editor

Writer defends Economic Committee, Chairman

web posted January 16, 2010
Dear Editor:
I read with amazement your attack on Edgefield County’s economic development efforts.  As always you seem intent on discrediting everyone and everything in Edgefield County.

With respect to your attack on the County’s participation in the Economic Development Partnership for Aiken and Edgefield Counties, you need to know that that organization is very highly regarded at the state and national level.  The executive director, Fred Humes, has a stellar record of performance and Edgefield County benefits enormously from the fact that Aiken County is well known and draws prospects which would not otherwise come to this region.  I think that Edgefield County could not do better than to participate in that two-county partnership.

With regard to the County’s Economic Development Committee, as I understand it, no county funds are spent on the Committee.  From what I have been able to determine, the Committee members meet monthly to review with Mr. Humes the economic development efforts which he has been engaged in and to devise economic development strategies for the county.  The members of this committee give freely and generously of their time and their efforts and have not cost the county a single dime.

All readers of Edgefield Daily are, of course, well acquainted with your personal and long-running vendetta against Bettis Rainsford.  I don’t know why you hate Bettis so, but my impression was that he had done a lot for Edgefield County.  From the daily barrage of negative comments which you make, readers will get the impression that he is truly a bad actor and a negative force in Edgefield County.  Yet, since I moved to this county twenty years ago, I have seen many positive developments which I don’t think would have happened without Bettis Rainsford.  After reading your recent editorial, I decided to do a bit of research to determine just what Bettis Rainsford has actually done for Edgefield County.  I have been amazed to learn all that he has been involved in.  The following is what I have found.

Nearly thirty years ago Bettis was responsible for building the nursing home next to the hospital.  That facility currently provides jobs for 150 people and has done so for all these years.  Soon after that, in the early 1980’s, he was a key player in bringing the BiLo and Revco (now CVS) stores to Edgefield County.  In the mid 1980’s he got a group together to purchase and operate the old Kendall Mill which was being closed.  Later, in the early 1990’s, he was responsible for building a new yarn mill which is now owned by Parkdale and which currently provides jobs for about 120 people and is one of the largest industrial taxpayers in the county.

In the late 1990’s, through his efforts the old Kendall Mill building was acquired and restored for Concurrent Technologies Corporation, creating more than 70 jobs and bringing about the restoration of a major historic building in the town.  In that same period he worked with Senator Thurmond to bring the Federal Prison here, creating jobs for nearly 350 people.  In the recruitment of Urban Outfitters in 2005, he played an important role in breaking through a impasse in the negotiations between Urban Outfitters and VF Corporation, enabling the sale of that building to go through, and the 300 plus jobs to come to Edgefield County.

While you have done much to publicize negative information about Mount Vintage Plantation, that project, which Bettis conceived and built, has added enormously to Edgefield County, creating nearly 100 jobs, bringing hundreds of new and well-educated people to the County, significantly increasing the tax base and adding greatly to the quality of life.  Additionally, Bettis has been responsible for having more than 100 senior apartments built in the Town which provide comfortable and safe environments for our senior citizens and add significantly to our tax base.  He is also largely responsible for Piedmont Technical College’s Edgefield Center, including the pottery school, for which he gave the buildings and helped secure the funding from the state.

He has done much to improve the appearance of the Town of Edgefield and to build the infrastructure for our tourism economy.  He persistently promoted the town’s revitalization efforts, including the initial work around the Town Square and the later work down Main Street.  He has been responsible for many improvements to Downtown properties, both by investing himself and by encouraging others to do so.  He built the Edgefield Inn which provides a quality place for people to stay while visiting Edgefield, and he operates the Old Edgefield Grill, which provides a fine dining experience for local citizens and visitors alike.  The Heritage Corridor Discovery Center, the Old Edgefield Pottery, the Village Blacksmith, Carpenter’s Stand and the Edgefield History Park would not be here but for his efforts.  Most recently, he and the Edgefield History Class of the Edgefield County Historical Society published the wonderful new book, The Story of Edgefield, which is an invaluable addition to the Town and County.

If you add up the local tax revenue on facilities which would not be here but for Bettis Rainsford it totals more than $2.5 million annually.  If you add up all the jobs that he has created in Edgefield County, they total more than a thousand.  If you count the number of community facilities and other community improvements for which he has been responsible, they have transformed Edgefield County.  Where would our county and our schools be without the tax revenue, without the jobs and without the improvements he has brought about?

In terms of qualifications to lead the county’s economic development efforts, Bettis Rainsford has an undergraduate degree from Harvard University and a law degree from the University of South Carolina.  He was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Business Administration by the University of South Carolina.  He has enormous and diverse experience in creating and financing businesses, having been the Chief Financial Officer of a Fortune 500/New York Stock Exchange Company.

And finally, and most importantly, Bettis is more single-mindedly devoted to the progress and prosperity of Edgefield County than anyone I know.  He is not worried about getting credit for his efforts and much of what he accomplishes he does behind the scenes so that the public is often unaware of his role.

You obviously enjoy stirring up local controversy and you revel in your scurrilous libel.  You have given wide publicity to the financial challenges which Mount Vintage and Bettis have faced during the last year.  Mount Vintage, like almost all real estate projects nationwide, has struggled with the economic recession and financial turmoil of the last several years.  The negative publicity which you have given to these problems has certainly added to the difficulties which Mount Vintage faces.  To the extent that you have wanted to damage Mount Vintage and Bettis, you have certainly succeeded.  But what possible benefit can there be to tearing down the hard-earned and well-deserved reputation of a man who has done so much for this county?

John Gerrard

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