Casino complex proponents elaborate on jobs promise

gmartin@islandpacket.comFebruary 11, 2012 

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One of the most alluring elements of a proposed casino and resort complex in Hardeeville, its developers say, is the number of jobs it would create.

They estimate the 50-acre complex, which would be built in Hilton Head Lakes, just off U.S. 278, would bring 4,700 jobs to the state -- 2,250 of them on-site in Jasper County.

Each of those would be full-time and year-round, and open to people with different employment histories.

"The job situation would run the gamut from service-level to professional," said Hardeeville city manager Bob Nanni.

Lou Frillman of Minneapolis-based Marquette Advisors -- which is involved in other casino operations nationwide and is advising the complex's development team -- said the projections were based on similar operations around the country and determined by a sophisticated computer model.

"We know exactly what it takes to operate these (developments) all over North America," Frillman said. "Our model uses both a mathematical, statistical approach and a qualitative one."

Frillman said the on-site jobs would all be filled by the time the complex opens.

The projected employment statistics do not take into account temporary jobs associated with the complex's construction. Dwight Drake, a Columbia-based attorney representing the project, said temporary jobs would "easily number in the hundreds."

Frillman added he "expects the vast majority of (construction) workers and contractors to be local."

Construction could begin within 24 months, if the project secures requisite approval from Gov. Nikki Haley and the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.

On-site employment would include 24 to 30 executives, Frillman said. Much of the estimated $95 million in wages, salaries and benefits for on-site employees would go to mid-level managers.

According to the developers, on-site workers would make, on average, $40,000 in compensation; they said they were unable to offer details on what entry-level workers might expect.

The developers said that the issue of compensation is important but secondary to the employment problems in Jasper County and the state.

Jasper County's current unemployment rate is 8.4 percent; higher than Beaufort County's rate of 7.5 percent, according to the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.

South Carolina's unemployment rate of 9.5 percent is above the national average of 8.3 percent -- ranking it 42nd of the 50 states -- according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"I think the most serious thing here is that this is an opportunity that would put ... over 3,000 to work in a Lowcountry region that's suffering high unemployment," Frillman said.

"Many of the people that will be hired are probably unemployed today."

Drake said there are about 11,000 unemployed in the Lowcountry region, and that the proposed complex "would put a serious dent in that."

Bob McAlister of Columbia-based McAlister Communications -- also involved in the development efforts -- said the casino could do for Jasper and Beaufort counties what Boeing and BMW plants did for other parts of the state.

"Charleston and Greer got their dream; now it's our time," he said. "If this dream goes unfulfilled, it becomes a nightmare."

Follow reporter Grant Martin at Twitter.com/LowCoBiz.

Related content:

Developers, politicians backing proposed Hardeeville casino complex outline plans, Feb. 8, 2012

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