A not so new kind of Economic Development for Beaufort County

31 Jan A not so new kind of Economic Development for Beaufort County

Several weeks ago, Bloomberg Philanthropies – in concert with their partner “Nest” –  brought together the Mayors of Beaufort, Charleston, Jackson, Mississippi, Columbia, SC and Birmingham, Alabama to discuss economic development through engaging local artisans/crafts people, stay at home women (attending to children, elderly parents or physically handicapped) and businesses whose markets can be opened to new products produced  in homes or smalls buildings.

Tested and successful in developing countries, “Nest” – supported by Bloomberg and other major funders  –  has helped artisans better organize their businesses, increase their production and find lucrative international and markets for products sold through major retailers. Some examples are providing huge amounts of coffee to Seattle’s coffee capital, placing hand made baskets, clothing and jewelry on the shelves of major retailers from Walmart to Macy’s and more.  Farmers from some small African villages have earned the catering rights for major airlines and the list continues.

Actually, this concept may not new to some in the Beaufort area who remember the late Biz Campbell’s Pixie Products,  through which local artisans developed products for larger and more lucrative markets.  Unfortunately, the company no longer exists, but the principles are very similar to those of “Nest”.

Upon seeing such success abroad, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked his associates at Bloomberg Associates and Bloomberg Philanthropies to explore the potential for the United States. A pilot may be launched in Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina.  There will soon be an organizational meeting in the region to which the Mayors will be asked to bring professional staff.

Because there are limits to what a small city government like ours can do,  with our already full plate of projects, and I have no direct staff,  the initiative in Beaufort must be coordinated by volunteers. This is to say I am looking for a coordinator or several who can help organize and of course artisans who believe they can enhance their businesses, increase productivity and meet market demands. I would like to identify interested parties, be they artisans and craftspeople who want to grow their businesses, mentors who can guide them and home bound women who would like to be part of the workforce model.

I believe the alignment of the resources of the Bloomberg organizations, the experiences and lessons learned by “Nest” and a network of entrepreneurial artisans and craftspeople in the Lowcountry can fill a jobs need in our hometown and hope a few people will come forward. There is nothing to lose and in my view a lot to gain.

If you are interested let me know.

Learn more about Nest at : www.buildanest.org