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Beaufort County Economic Development Corporation works on structure

Plans for how the recently formed Beaufort County Economic Development Corporation will work toward its goals were presented to County Council’s governmental affairs committee last week.

Camoin Associates, an economic development consulting service, presented a two- to three-year plan for a “sustained organization and development effort” for the corporation’s leadership.

“The objective is to create a framework and structure that will carry you forward,” Rob Camoin with Camoin Associates said.

The 37-page report lists a number of recommendations for the corporation.

For organizational objectives and “must-haves,” the report recommends more private sector positions within the corporation.

The report says the positions should be filled by people from key industries and entities of current and future employers.

Other “must-haves” also include using best practices like performance measurements and accountability. Another recommendation is that the board rebuild trust in the county.

The report provides some history of fits and starts for the county in economic development. It cites some differences between northern and southern Beaufort County that may have contributed to inaction.

“Clearly, communities, residents and stakeholders to the North and South of the Broad River have differing needs and thus differing opinions on the economic development approach that will improve the quality of life in their communities,” it says.

The decades-long debate on how to proceed and the resulting conflict led to “deep distrust among public officials and stakeholders,” the report says.

The report says rebuilding and maintaining that trust among stakeholders must be a No. 1 priority.

More than 40 stakeholders were interviewed for the report, representing county leadership, businesses, education and training, workforce, chambers of commerce and local and state economic development.

To build an economy that is less dependent on a residential tax base, the corporation needs to increase the availability of industrial and commercial sites, the report says.

“Today’s market requires pre-approved sites served by highway, water, and sewer infrastructure,” it says. “These sites are not only critical to attracting new investment, but more importantly essential to serve existing businesses that will need options to accommodate growth.

“The BCEDC will need to begin exploring whether the County can potentially offer sites that can accommodate current and future needs and, if so, the investment required to support their development.”

Camoin’s report says it is critical the corporation conduct a site market and feasibility study before marketing is begun. It also says the corporation should work closely with primary and secondary schools to help address employment needs.

Continued support of the Don Ryan Center for Innovation is recommended to help with small business startups and entrepreneurship.

The report says the corporation should begin to represent the county’s interest in the impacts of the future Jasper Ocean Terminal by participating in state, regional and local meetings with surrounding counties and partners.

The corporation should also work to help current business retention and expansion, it says. Another priority is to hire an executive director, officials said.

A preliminary budget was prepared for the balance of 2017 and for 2018. Costs listed for this year are $84,000. That includes a $40,000 site and feasibility survey.

The 2018 budget total is $370,00. That number includes staffing and office expenses.

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