West Columbia is attracting a lot of new businesses.
“We try to be friendly to business,” said Mayor Bobby Horton. And evidently that approach is working. The number of business licenses issued by the City of West Columbia has increased every year for the last six years. In 2011; there were 1,606 business licenses issued; in 2012, there were 1,708; in 2013; 1.790; in 2014; there 1,932 business licenses issued; in 2015, there were 2,098 issued; and in 2016, 2,198.
While the quantity of licenses issued is indicative of a surge in small business, Horton alluded to a project that represents a centerpiece in the city’s growth. The Brookland project is a multi-million-dollar commercial, retail and residential complex that is transforming West Columbia. Being built at the high-profile location of State and Meeting Streets, Brookland offers a view of the Columbia skyline, in the vista of the Congaree River.
Because of the West Columbia Riverwalk, it is one of the most popular areas for day visitors in the metro Columbia area. Ground was broken on Brookland in January. When completed, Brookland will include upper-scale dining and many shops and boutiques, as well as office space. Smaller businesses are already pouring into the area, and more are interested in coming. “Brookland is one of the most-significant developments ever undertaken in West Columbia,” said Horton. He described the project as a catalyst for Congaree signgrowth for the next few decades.
Whereas most of the new ones are smaller businesses that build a foundation for the community, Brookland is a massive operation. The process to bring in Brookland, being built by Estates and Co. Inc. required lots of detail and planning by West Columbia staff and its officials. But it was important to work through the project, according to Horton, and keep the interests of existing residents in mind. “What we’re doing now in the City of West Columbia will have an affect for generations,” he said. “Our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will benefit from the progress we’re making now.”
Gregg Pinner is the president and CEO of the Greater Cayce-West Columbia Chamber of Commerce. He said he has seen signals that have resulted in commercial growth in West Columbia. He said because of its location, and the city’s appeal, businesses are moving in. He also said city staff and its leaders are open to fresh ideas to spur economic growth. “On Highway 1 (Augusta Highway) at the Chick-fil-A, the site of Georgetown Plaza, there’s been a flurry of activity,” Pinner said.
wclist2“There is a high traffic count there, and that brings business.” While a stream of available customers has been a draw, Horton said the administration at the City of West Columbia is pro-business, and that is a factor too. “We have a forward-thinking staff. They understand the need to be responsive and efficient,” Horton said. “It’s a one-stop shop where you can get what you need and there is not a lot of waiting.” Horton also said The City of West Columbia personnel are innovative. “We have people working for the city who think outside the box,” Horton said. The success of Georgetown Plaza has resulted in other businesses opening in the area.
A block way from Chick-fil-A, past the Leaphart Road-US 1 intersection, several new businesses are coming. A McAlisters Deli will open soon and a Batteries Plus Bulbs store had a ribbon-cutting in June. First Heritage Credit is another new business expanding into West Columbia. The shops are being built and filled quickly. Pinner said the Chamber is busy with a string of ribbon-cutting ceremonies in West Columbia because there is so much new business.
In addition to the influx of commercial activity on US 1, the US 378-Sunset Boulevard section of town is a rwalk actionmagnet. “You have Lexington Medical Center there in the middle of all of that growth,” said Pinner.
Restaurants are a big draw, but there are retail stores in the area and a new Lexington Two school is being built off of Sunset Boulevard. In addition to the new school, three of the West Columbia area’s beloved neighborhood schools (Saluda River, Pineview and Springdale) are in line for major upgrades in the next year. As the schools are upgraded, the community is even more appealing to business.
As areas of the city fill more of the existing capacity, areas like Triangle City, home of the iconic Zesto ice cream cone, will also realize its potential. Pinner said he could see Triangle City attract more residential properties to go along with the many businesses already there. “I could see it becoming a working and living community,” he said.