BY MICHAELE DUKE
Williamsburg County had a special visitor Friday. Lisa Mensah, Under Secretary, Rural Development U.S. Department of Agriculture enjoyed a tour of Tri County Gin facility as part of a four-county trip to facilities that fall under Rural Development projects. Tri County Gin, LLC is located 3 1/2 miles south of Kingstree on Highway 52. It has been producing cotton since 1989 and is owned by farmers. The Salters facility qualifies for loans under USDA Rural Development Business and Industry loan programs. Since 2009, SC USDA has invested over $170 million in numerous projects within Williamsburg County of which the gin is a small part.
Jay Steele, manager of Tri County Gin, hosted the tour. Vernita F. Dore, State Director, SC USDA Rural Development, Jesse T. Risher USDA Rural Development Program Director, Business and Cooperative Programs, and George W. Hicks, S.C. USDA Rural Development Area Director accompanied Mensah.
Tri County Gin receives cotton straight from the field. The cotton is processed where moisture, trash, seed, and lint are separated. All of the cotton is spun in North Carolina and cottonseed is used for dairy feed and has been exported to Saudi Arabia or South Korea.
Mensah was impressed with the staff and what the facility produces. “What is impressive is to see American agricultural producers in a very ancient crop – cotton – and to see us making it in a really pretty sustainable way here,” said Mensah whose job is to fight for the resources at the state level.
“We’ve got the manufacturing capacity right here in South Carolina to help the producers, who are co-owners in it, and that we have a new way of bringing new money here, because he’s exporting. That’s impressive. This is a microcosm of a bigger economic impact.”