Before Christmas, I helped sort donated toys and gifts for children and their families in Hardeeville. While there, I heard the story of a single mom and her kids living in a run-down hotel, and their struggle to get by.

I thought about all the new housing and industrial developments starting a few miles away and wondered if she knew or cared about them or how they might affect the family.

The same day we read the announcement that Waste Management will be investing $23 million to build its new facility, I met with Hardeeville Mayor Harry Williams to get an introduction to this project coming to the RiverPort Business Park in Hardeeville.

As I listened to the changes coming in 2018, my thoughts returned to the mom in the hotel and other struggling residents of Jasper County – would they see their quality of life improve as a result of all this growth?

The answer lies within a sort of “chicken and the egg” riddle.

City Manager Michael Czymbor stressed how imperative it is to be able to attract Fortune 500 companies that will bring better-paying jobs.

He said that getting that first company to build here was elusive in the Depression years, and often Georgia was a more attractive option.

Hardeeville had the land, but not the infrastructure. School ratings were low, skilled labor was in short supply, and the housing inventory could not accommodate growth.

Williams explained their vision for growth and revitalizing the main thoroughfare, Whyte Hardee Boulevard, as a “city center” capable of attracting national and international companies, as do Charleston and Greenville.

Changes started happening in Hardeeville a few years ago. A new administration of innovative local officials was seated, initiating a spirit of involvement. The Jasper Ocean Terminal started to become a reality reflecting the new vision.

A master plan was drawn up by Brana Snowden, director of planning and development, and Katie Woodruff, long-range division manager. The women spoke with passion about their roles as “planners instead of reactionaries.”

So how does the mom in the hotel fit into all of this? “Government at the municipal level can be most effective bringing the benefits of economic development directly to its residents,” Williams said.Czymbor illustrated how tax revenue from industrial expansion supplies the engine that powers social, educational and school support programs, and expanded fire and police departments. Already there are plans for a new fire station and community center, each to become major contributors to the quality of life for all residents.

It so simple in theory: “Build it and they will come.” But they won’t come until you build it, and you can’t build it unless you have the revenue. Therein lies the conundrum of the chicken and the egg.

This is why the Waste Management deal is such a big deal – because it is the first. Fortune 500 companies will see brick-and-mortar, tangible accomplishments and successes that start the domino effect.

The engine is picking up speed and the fuel for the engine comes directly from Hardeeville City Hall. Over the coming months, Hardeeville’s population and industrial tax base will continue to grow.

As long as our local governments keep their missions clear, their action plans transparent and the momentum high, there is reason to be optimistic about the future.

Stay tuned, we’re all watching.

Debra McCartan lives in Bluffton.