Lowcountry Economic Alliance moving to Beaufort City Hall

cconley@islandpacket.comAugust 27, 2012 

The Lowcountry Economic Alliance, Beaufort County's fledgling business-recruitment arm, is moving its two full-time employees from an office park in Okatie to Beaufort's City Hall.

The move will save the economic development group, which recently split with Jasper County, about $20,000 a year.

"It's a cost-savings issue," said alliance chairman David Tigges, who noted that the Sept. 1 move shouldn't limit the group's ability to meet with business prospects.

"I am convinced that location in the business we conduct is not that material to our mission," he said. "It seemed like a pretty easy decision."

The organization currently rents two suites and a conference room in Okatie Commerce Park, which until late 2010 was a regional office and training center for NetJets pilots and staff. The complex has struggled to attract new tenants since then and is listed for sale.

The alliance's new space, on the second floor of City Hall alongside staff of the city's Redevelopment Commission, is about the same size as the Okatie location but will cost only $6,000 a year, said Kim Statler, alliance executive director.

Another benefit: The organization is not signing a long-term lease, at least for now, Statler said.

Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said the City Hall space is currently not being used, and city employees won't be displaced.

"We had surplus space upstairs in the building, so we figured (the alliance) would be a very good tenant for us since we are a member and support what they are doing," he said.

Meanwhile, the alliance has agreed to retain Statler for one year as its director. Statler gave notice in April she intended to leave amid growing tensions between board members from Beaufort and Jasper counties.

Jessica Bridges, who works as the alliance's business development director, also will stay on as a full-time employee.

Tigges said Statler will be paid $96,500 -- the same salary she received last year -- and will be an employee of the alliance rather than a contractor. Bridges' pay was not disclosed.

The alliance's $537,000 budget for 2012-13, which calls for tapping $315,000 in reserves, projects employee costs of $213,450.

The alliance initially was created as the economic-development arm for Beaufort and Jasper counties. Jasper County left the group in May after months of discord, and the organization is no longer recognized by the state as a regional economic alliance, causing it to lose up to $600,000 in matching funds next year.

However, the group's newly appointed board continues to add members, who will be billed $10,000 in annual dues, and it has vowed to press on for at least another year.

Related content:

Split with Jasper County could affect state funding, June 14, 2012

Jasper County Council votes to leave Lowcountry Economic Alliance; will join new group, May 16, 2012

Executive director of Lowcountry Economic Alliance announces departure from group, April 23, 2012

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