Fairfield County, where Winnsboro is located, has suffered a series of unrelated economic blows in recent years. A Walmart shut its doors, as did a textile factory. A hospital in Winnsboro is preparing to close, and a major multibillion-dollar nuclear power plant project was halted — all resulting in thousands losing their jobs. The city’s main drag, Congress Street, is lined with empty storefronts standing in stark contrast to a number of newer businesses, underscoring the rural community’s challenges.
“When President Trump first announced tariffs were coming we were excited. In fact, Element talked with us about leasing the Walmart so they could double their operation,” Fanning said. “That excitement turned to devastation when we learned that tariff was not just on the product, but on the parts to the product.” The most expensive part that Element imports for assembly is the glass that goes behind its television screens, he said.
Local business owners are concerned about another blow to the area. Whitney Brown, owner-operator of a Sonic restaurant across the street from the facility, said she generates a sizeable amount of business from Element employees.
“Element has a huge impact on our sales — my breakfast sales are definitely pretty big because of Element,” she said. “We have a lot of people here whose family members have jobs there. It’s going to hurt us a bit.”
Meanwhile, Crystal Paulk, co-owner of The Donut Guy, said her sales will stay afloat even with another local business closing. But as a Winnsboro resident, she worries about her community.