Walterboro was known in its “heyday” in the 1920-1950s as “the Place” where tourists traveling up and down the East coast would stop for shopping, entertainment and relaxation. During that time Walterboro was bigger and more prosperous than neighbors like Summerville, Beaufort, Bluffton or Hardeeville.
When we look at ourselves today, as I listen to all of you, the question is “what happened”? Why have we not been able to keep up with the times? Why is our population today the same number as in 1958? Why has our population shrunk by nearly 10% in the last 10 years, when our neighboring cities have grown by 10-30% (some over 100%, like Bluffton and Hardeeville) over the same 10 years? Why are 54% of our children ages 0-6 still living in poverty? Why are businesses locating around us, creating thousand of jobs in other cities – and not within our boundaries? Why is downtown main street so empty? Why don’t we have affordable housing and affordable rental housing? Why is our crime rate still so much higher than neighboring cities: 60% higher than Beaufort, 68% higher than Hardeeville, and 578% higher than Bluffton? Why is affordable childcare not accessible to all? Why haven’t some city funds been directed to our neighborhoods that are still flooding and toward maintenance of existing infrastructure?
As citizens we are given a lot of excuses, like “Well… I-95 was built”, and we are told to “just accept it” because “it is the way it is”. But don’t be fooled, REALITY is that Walterboro is a historic town that sits on what has been called a GEOGRAPHICAL OASIS that includes two deep water ports nearby, multiple exits on the main highway artery on the east coast (I-95), multiple economic Opportunity and Promise Zones, a significant airport asset AND the most UNBELIEVABLE people… YOU! Together, we can DEMAND BETTER.
This GEOGRAPHICAL OASIS should, with proper involvement by everybody in the community, create job opportunities for everyone – WITHOUT having to spend hours commuting to-and-from work every day. We all know that jobs lift people economically and that jobs attract more people. And that more employed people attract more service businesses – like restaurants, shops, movie theaters and places where we can all play with family and friends. And yes, as we achieve that, tourists traveling on I-95 will stop to visit our city and we will be once again be “THE PLACE”, only for the 21st century