Santee Cooper hopes an infusion of funding will lead to a surge in rural jobs.

The state-owned utility's board of directors last week approved $10.85 million in loans for four commercial and industrial projects across rural parts of South Carolina.

The projects include improvements in Beaufort, Orangeburg, Calhoun and Jasper counties.

"Industrial site selectors tell us over and over that what they need most in locating a new plant is a building that's already in the ground," said Lonnie Carter, Santee Cooper president and CEO.

Including local financing and the state-owned utility's loans, the total investment for all four projects comes to $23.5 million.

The projects approved are:

A $4 million loan to Beaufort County to build a 40,000-square-foot commercial building in the county's Myrtle Park Industrial Park. With local matching funds, the total project cost is anticipated to be $7.5 million. Palmetto Electric Cooperative serves the project.

A $4 million loan to Orangeburg County to build a 75,000-square-foot industrial building in the county's Matthews Industrial Park, which is served by Tri-County Electric Cooperative. With the local matching funds, the total project cost is anticipated to be $8.5 million.

A $2 million loan to Calhoun County to help build a 50,000-square-foot industrial building in the I-26 Industrial Park. The park currently is home to the Starbucks Sandy Run Roasting Plant and is served by Tri-County Electric. The total project cost is anticipated to be $5.4 million, with the balance coming from local investment.

An $850,000 loan to Jasper County to help build a 40,000-square-foot industrial building that could be expanded to 100,000 square feet. Local investment in the project totals $1.2 million, bringing total project costs to just over $2 million. The building will be in the Cypress Ridge Industrial Park and is served by Palmetto Electric Coop-erative.

Moncks Corner-based Santee Cooper provides power to about 40 percent of the state's population, or about 2 million people.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or