31 Jan The Virus has not hit Beaufort County and I do not believe it will
As I watch and read snippets in the news, like many with whom I talk, I detect a virus of dissension that is spreading through our nation and the world. Fortunately, I see evidence that the divisiveness is not catching on in Beaufort County. I will do all I am able to see that it does not.
Last week when all four Mayors from Beaufort’s principal municipalities presented to Senior Leadership Beaufort, many in the gathering expressed surprise that mayors get along so well. We actually like each other, seem to not compete and understand how our towns and city complement each other to the benefit of the entire county if not the region. It is a joy working with Mayors Murray, Sulka and Bennett as we are on the same page in a number of areas and share mutual concerns about others.
A week earlier the Mayors met as a group with a consultant working for the Beaufort County Economic Development Corporation who said he was surprised by the “uniquely collaborative relationships between local leaders” when in other places he finds cities competing fiercely against one another and not getting along with county government.
While this sense of collective purpose and unity is possibly attributable to the individuals, I think it is more that our communities understand how we complement each other and that working together we rise and working apart we fall.
The mayors have stood tall and strong in sending Beaufort County a message about the directions for the oft talked about subject of economic development. Each of us has a plan, but we know that by working together to market, send prospects each others way when they don’t fit us and having an ongoing conversation is productive for all. Most on County Council are collaborating by supporting the newly established Beaufort County Economic Development Corporation with engagement by municipal representatives and those appointed by the county council. The consultant has been talking to stakeholders to determine how we can meld our visions and plans into a unified marketing initiative that benefits all.
On an equally important economic development collaboration, Beaufort invited Bluffton’s successful Don Ryan Center for Innovation to open a satellite in Beaufort City Hall and Beaufort’s new Digital Corridor is reaching out to technology start ups from through out the county and region. The Beaufort County Council gave $140,000 in state grants, that would have otherwise been returned to the State Department of Commerce because there was no allocated use by the County, that was split equally by The Beaufort Digital Corridor and the Don Ryan Center to further enhance our collaborations. Also the County has provided incentives to prospective companies considering moving to the area. This is new and it is good. Thanks to the municipalities, along with the County Council, for investing in the future of our young people and entrepreneurs who live here or those who may want to relocated to the area.
As another example of collaboration, at a Northern Regional Plan Implementation Committee meeting last week, after a bit of finger pointing about traffic challenges on Ladys Island, Beaufort and Port Royal and County Council members agreed that the challenge of fixing the problems through a long range plan for the island is a responsibility requiring collaboration among all. We agreed that we must work together because all of our jurisdictions are connected and effected by the burden of traffic.
And finally, even though the initial sites for the historic Reconstruction Era Monument are in northern Beaufort County, organizers, in concert with Hilton Head Island and Bluffton Mayors, Congressman Clyburn’s office and the National Park Service understand that the story is larger than four sites and that there are sites to be added in both southern and northern Beaufort County. How and when this happens I cannot predict, but before long I envision an inclusive meeting to determine how this level of collaboration can be achieved.
All of this is to say that while there is currently dissension seemingly throughout the world and the nation, Beuafort County has not caught the virus and by all indications there is no reason we will. This offers an opportunity to shine brightly and give our citizens the opportunities we owe them.