Fred Gassaway of Palmetto Economic Development Corporation
South Carolina has some of the lowest rates for electric power in the country. Among the investorowned utilities, the electricity cities, the electric co- operatives, and Santee Cooper, there is plenty of low- priced power to go around the state. And all the power players want to keep it that way, so they have Fred Gassaway in marketing for the co- ops and for Santee Cooper.
Gassaway was born in Donalds, S.C., where his father based his sales route and where his mother taught the sixth grade. Gassaway is 11 years older than his sister, Lana Pearson, who works for Barnes & Noble in Myrtle Beach.
In Gassaway's home section of the state, there was major high school consolidation in the 1950s, and Gassaway had to commute to Due West for classes at Dixie High School. He played varsity single-team football, where all 11 members of the team played both offense and defense. Dixie lost the state football championship in its division to Bamberg in the fall of 1963, Gassaway's senior year.
Gassaway went to college at Clemson in the fall of 1964. He majored in agricultural economics, and he stayed at Clemson long enough to earn his master's degree in agricultural economics. The school hired him to work in the college placement office as a graduate assistant.
Even though he had an obligation with the U.S. Army through his Clemson ROTC commission, Gassaway managed to work a short while for Bankers Trust in Columbia, long enough to make a favorable impression and to return after the military with a banking career in his future.
Bankers Trust sent Gassaway to Orangeburg, and his mission was to take market share from First National of Orangeburg and from American Bank & Trust. In 1973, he called the S.C. Development Board, which later became the S.C. Department of Commerce and asked them about rumored industrial concerns. This sparked Gassaway's interest and he was asked if he could join the board's Judge Dave Harwell on a marketing trip to California.
The California trip was a success, and Gassaway shifted from commercial banking at Bankers Trust to economic development marketing at the S.C. Development Board. He stayed with the board for seven years.
Pat Allen, CEO of Central Electric Co- operative in Lexington County, asked Gassaway in 1980 for help composing a marketing business plan for Central Electric Co-operative. Gassaway applied his experience and adequate due diligence, and the result was a job offer to Gassaway to put his recommendations in motion for a three- year contract term.
Gassaway began marketing for Allen's electric co- op about the same time Paul Volcker, chairman of the Federal Reserve, ratcheted up interest rates to choke the economy and beat down inflation. Volcker's interest- rake hikes worked, and they were so high no one could borrow for business; so there was little economic expansion in the country or in South Carolina for the first couple years Gassaway was on the marketing job.
Still, Gassaway's performance was much appreciated and recognized, and he stayed with Central Electric for a total of seven years.
Following Central Electric, Gassaway moved to his current office, Palmetto Economic Development Corporation in Capitol Place, the former AT&T Building. There he represents the state's electric cooperatives and Santee Cooper.
Gassaway's marketing efforts are heavily focused on heavy industry, manufacturing concerns that can take advantage of the residential- dominated customer base among the co-ops. The manufacturers can use the electric power capacity 24/7, while the residential customers tend to crowd their power demands in peak periods.
While the residents sleep, the manufacturers can continue to produce beyond the confines of peak power demand.
Such high- end, fulltime manufacturing boosts the state's per capita income and also holds down the price of electric power for the state's residents, attracting more manufacturing plants and more residents.