Graniteville growth apparent, nearly 12 years after deadly train crash that left community struggling

The once-booming textile community struggled to attract businesses back to Graniteville until now.
The once-booming textile community struggled to attract businesses back to Graniteville until now.

GRANITEVILLE, S.C. (WJBF) –  The community of Graniteville is rebuilding nearly 12 years after a deadly train crash.

The Norfolk Southern trains, carrying toxic chemicals, killed 9 people and forced thousands to evacuate the area.

Since then the once-booming textile community struggled to attract businesses back to the area.

However, now Graniteville is finally on the rebound after the deadly disaster in 2005.

The area is quickly becoming a hub for industrial growth with the addition of many new large-scale employers.

Still, many residents are petitioning for more retailers in the area.

With the construction of the Cyber Center of Excellence growth is inevitable for the C.S.R.A. and Graniteville is getting in on the action.

Just take a drive down Bettis Academy Rd and you’ll notice sign after sign for new businesses, new subdivisions, new schools and even a new medical center.

“So we are just thrilled that our area is beginning to take root and grow again,” Phil Napier, Aiken County Councilman District 6, told WJBF NewsChannel 6.

Councilman Napier says when the American Textile Industry started moving overseas Graniteville suffered, but it was the deadly train derailment that ultimately left the city lifeless.

Napier says the availability of land is a big reason new industries are looking at Aiken’s gateway and with easy access to Interstate 20, it’s a prime location for people needing to get Augusta or Columbia quickly.

It’s also one of the reasons why Radney Williams says his son moved out of the congested Garden City.

“What do you think of the traffic? Have you run into any out here?” Asked WJBF NewsChannel 6’s Stefany Bornman.

“No traffic around here. They go to church right up here on the right. There’s just no traffic over here,” Williams said. “Now there’s traffic in Augusta, because it’s a bigger city, but it’s easier for him. He jumps on 520 and swings around to Peach Orchard Rd and he’s at work in 20 to 25 minutes.”

While Williams hasn’t encountered much traffic since he’s been in town visiting for the holidays, locals say all the new businesses on Bettis Academy Rd are going to require more than 2 lanes to accommodate the extra the drivers on the road.

“I would like to see road improvements for sure. Maybe widen some of the road,” said longtime Graniteville resident Jeff Petersen. “If it’s going to be a lot busier and with a lot more traffic coming down through here.”

Still, the up-and-coming Graniteville area is lacking some much-needed amenities, especially with more people moving and working in the community.

“They are talking about bringing some more like shopping. Is that something that you would be interested in?” Asked WJBF NewsChannel 6’s Stefany Bornman.

“Right now you either have to go to Aiken or Augusta. So it would be a lot easier to just come to a local store, to get stuff, rather than drive 30 minutes down the road.” Petersen told WJBF NewsChannel 6.

A website was started to send in suggestions for restaurants and retailers you would like to see in Graniteville, please visit wewantshoppinghere.com to submit your ideas.

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