Coker College President Robert Wyatt and I have met regularly for years to address the issues and concerns which affect the City of Hartsville generally and Coker College specifically. Last week, I had a chance to reflect on the value of this collaboration at a time of impressive growth and development for the City and the college both, as Dr. Wyatt and I presented at the 2015 International Town & Gown Association (ITGA) conference about our work together.
Education has long served as one of the pillars of Hartsville’s success. Its role is only growing, and not just at Coker. The extraordinarily gifted students and faculty of the S.C. Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics continue to put Hartsville on the map, and the Hartsville site of Florence-Darlington Technical College is impacting our economy with in-town instruction for degrees across many disciplines. The Darlington County School District maintains a high standard of academic excellence – Hartsville High’s International Baccalaureate Programme is one standout – providing another reason for people to want to live here.
Coker College is becoming more important to Hartsville all the time. Even for those who aren’t aware of all the growth in Coker’s degree offerings, enrollment, student life and athletics, the fact that it’s flourishing these days should still be obvious. Its impressive athletic facility, the DeLoach Center, opened last year and it continues to build new student housing on campus.
Coker’s growth is happening alongside the City of Hartsville’s work to build a better future of more business development, new jobs and young professionals. Our efforts really go hand in hand with the efforts of our schools, including Coker. A vibrant student population supports a diversity of local retailers, restaurants and hotels. At the same time, a city filled with businesses, recreation and cultural opportunities can help attract students, faculty and staff. We’re all working together, and that’s why I work so closely with Dr. Wyatt.
Our presentation to the ITGA in Washington, D.C. attracted real interest from the association’s members. We know we’re doing great things in Hartsville when we’re getting attention on a much larger stage. We told them that ours is a small city which has nonetheless maintained major employers – Sonoco, Duke Energy, Carolina Pines and Coker – all in need of skilled professionals, well-educated and career-minded. That’s why we seek out businesses, why we focus on rebuilding our parks and our parking lots. The more we can do for Hartsville, the more private investment will follow.
The introductory material for our presentation had this to say: “Hartsville boasts profound and sustainable improvements that have reignited community spirit and helped residents and investors see things differently. Rather than looking in a mirror at progress made, they are looking over the horizon to see the vibrant, globally-aware knowledge-town that Hartsville aspires to become.” At a time when many rural communities are struggling, we are thriving. All we have to do is keep pushing in the right direction.
Natalie Zeigler is the City Manager of Hartsville. For more information, call City Hall at 843-383-3015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.