UNION — Gov. Nikki Haley said she believes better days are ahead for Union County as she helped open a work readiness center that will help the less fortunate of Union County not only benefit from those better days but help make them happen as well.
Haley was in Union Wednesday morning to take part in the grand opening of the “Meeting Place on Main — Workforce Readiness Center.” Located at 111 W. Main St., Union, the facility will be part of the expansion of Trinity Baptist Church’s Channel of Blessing Ministry from providing food to the less fortunate of Union County to also helping them develop the skills to get and hold a job and become self-supporting.
Rev. Neil Keisler, Pastor of Trinity Baptist, pointed out in an interview earlier this year that 60-70 percent of the people assisted by Channel of Blessing are ages 19-64, a group he described as working age. Keisler said that while there are jobs in Union County, the people being served by Channel of Blessing often don’t how to keep and get them, something the church is hoping to change with the new workforce readiness center.
Haley became involved with the church’s efforts through her Original 6 Foundation which she established when she became governor in 2011. The Foundation gave the church a total of $37,000 in grants to assist in the renovation of the old Wm. McCall Studio which had been donated to Trinity Baptist by Jane Kirby.
On Wednesday, Haley came to Union with members of the Original 6 Foundation Board to take part in the grand opening of the center. Prior to assisting Keisler in cutting the ribbon formally opening the facility, Haley spoke about her reasons for establishing the Foundation which serves seven rural counties including Union County. Haley said that in the past rural counties like Union County had often been overlooked when it came to economic development, something she decided to change.
“We can’t just think of our big areas in South Carolina,” Haley said. “Our rural areas are the sweetest spots and companies are starting to notice this and when they see places like this it makes them want to invest in a community.”
Haley said that when she became governor she instructed the project managers at the SC Department of Commerce that when they bring a new industry into the state they would get a bonus, but when they bring one to a rural community like Union County, they would get an even bigger bonus.
To also help her achieve her goal of ensuring that rural communities are not forgotten, Haley founded the Original 6 Foundation to work with local groups in the counties served by Original 6 to identify and address the challenges facing their communities and provide them with the resources to do so. In the case of Union County the local group was Trinity Baptist Church and its desire to expand its Channel of Blessing Ministry to address the issue of workforce readiness and Meeting Place on Main would be the focus of its efforts to do so.
Haley pointed out that since she became governor, 900 new jobs have been announced for Union County and the county’s unemployment rate has fallen from 17 percent to 7 percent. She said her administration will continue to work to bring new jobs to the county and to reduce its unemployment rate, but she said that will require people here who will be able to fill those jobs and that’s where Meeting Place on Main comes in. Haley pointed that Meeting Place on Main will provide those it serves with training to prepare them for a successful job interview and even provide them with food and clothing in preparation for that interview. She said that most importantly, it will provide those it serves with the support and encouragement they need to change their lives for the better.
“If they don’t have clothes for an interview there will be clothes here for an interview,” Haley said. “If they didn’t have food before an interview, we’re going to feed them
“This is not a place when you walk in that you should feel like you failed,” she said. “This is a place you should walk in and see success in the window.”
Haley said that the commitment shown by the community through Meeting Place on Main gives her confidence in the future of Union County.
“No one should ever feel like they’re living by themselves anymore, because this place is truly a place where you can figure out how you lift your life up,” Haley said. “I truly believe that Union County’s days are only going to get better from here.”
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.