23 May A wise move by Beaufort County Council
Economic Alliances have their place as they are recognized as regional marketing arms for regions of the state. But they only work when there is strong consensus that an alliance fits the needs of its members, each of the members has a plan, significant local dollars are committed to investing in spec buildings (which is what relocating and new companies demand) and when there is a will.
To date, Beaufort County has yet to exhibit that commitment. Rather, it seems supporters of immediately joining an alliance are more interested in finding someone else to do the heavy lifting when we have not the plan, the money or the will.
For the past year, the Mayors of Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, Port Royal and Beaufort have warned against joining any alliance until we are ready and committed. As a pre-requisite for joining an alliance, we have proposed setting up an economic development corporation including representatives from the county, from each of the municipalities and the private sector. Using a facilitator, perhaps offers the Department of Commerce, we would first review plans on which the county spent hundreds of dollars that we never launched nor was the funding to support required infrastructure and marketing allocated.
By rejecting a expensive membership in the Southern Alliance, by adopting our own plan and devoting resources to funding it, we could be back on track. At that time, it may or may not make sense to explore an alliance. But to do so before would simply be kicking the can down the road. We cannot afford to to that.
I am cautiously hopeful that through this inclusive approach we will finally make headway.
By the way, each of the four municipalities have stood up our own economic initiatives because we cannot wait. At the same time, it is fair to say that we would all be more successful working with Beaufort County Council and Staff.