County, Bluffton partner in 'Project Pants' plans to attract business

cconley@islandpacket.comJune 26, 2012 

The Beaufort County Council agreed Monday to partner with the town of Bluffton and the S.C. Department of Commerce to help bring a new business to the May River Tech Park in Buckwalter Place.

The prospect's name was not revealed, and for now, the joint effort to attract the company has been named "Project Pants." Such economic development efforts routinely get code names to ensure confidentiality, county attorney Josh Gruber said.

While the company's name hasn't been disclosed, officials said Monday that successfully bringing it to Buckwalter Place could spur $11 million in new investment and protect 130 jobs already in Beaufort County. The move could also bring 40 jobs from out of state and create 100 jobs within five years.

For now, Beaufort County has agreed only to participate in negotiations and consider possible economic incentives to attract the business. Bluffton is expected to be the lead negotiator.

The resolution approved Monday also requires Bluffton Town Council's approval, scheduled for July 17. County Council approval was an important first step, council Chairman Weston Newton said.

"It is an expression of willingness to partner with the town of Bluffton to negotiate for Project Pants," he said after Monday's meeting.

Bluffton town manager Anthony Barrett declined to comment on the effort.

One county councilman warned that negotiating economic incentives with companies to retain existing jobs could be "tricky."

"Newer jobs are a lot easier to measure," Councilman Stu Rodman said.

Based on the resolution approved Monday, the company wants to establish or expand facilities or both within Bluffton. It also wants to be near other "technology intensive companies."

Officials involved in the negotiations would not reveal whether the company is already in Beaufort County or if it is considering a move to another area.

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