Hilton Head council considers new group to attract growth

bheffernan@islandpacket.comNovember 30, 2012 

Hilton Head Island needs a new organization to attract and retain businesses, town leaders said Friday.

During the second day of a three-day retreat in Beaufort, Town Council members discussed the creation and role of an economic-development organization that would operate as a nonprofit corporation, with a full-time executive director.

The town would pay the salary for the director, who would be hired and managed by the organization's volunteer board. The board would consist of current and retired business people appointed by Town Council. Some also suggested town manager Steve Riley would serve on the board.

Riley said the town has money set aside from a position held open earlier this year that could be used to pay a director. No salary amounts were discussed, and the council took no votes on the creation of the organization.

"I think this type of a group can keep the businesses that we have here, here," said Councilman George Williams.

It was suggested by council members that the organization's board be created with a specific direction and goals set by the council.

"This cannot operate as a lone ranger. It has to operate with the strategic direction of the town," Councilman Bill Harkins said.

Council members said they should be careful in choosing the board's members to avoid conflicts of interest.

It was suggested that the group be held to predetermined performance measures, but no specifics were discussed. Some of the proposed organization's other goals include improving the business environment through things like better wireless Internet access, and advising Town Council on long-term economic development goals.

Riley said he will begin drafting a charter for the organization.

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