Hilton Head economic development group forming too slowly, council members say

bheffernan@islandpacket.comMarch 21, 2013 

Hilton Head Island Town Council members hope a town economic-development corporation will attract businesses and spur redevelopment on the island, but some members said this week the group is forming too slowly.

"It seems like we're talking about not getting this thing off the ground till next fall, and this is one of our priorities that we set in our retreat" in December, Councilman Lee Edwards said at a meeting Tuesday. "I just think we need to maybe think about stepping on the gas with this a bit."

Councilman Bill Harkins agreed, saying the town's process should "move at a faster pace."

The nonprofit, economic-development corporation is expected to help close deals on development projects, and to recruit and retain businesses. Council voted unanimously in November to create the organization, which will be governed by a volunteer board of directors and led by a full-time executive director. The town has set aside $80,000 for the director's salary and benefits, rent, office equipment and other start-up costs, according to town manager, Steve Riley.

The corporation would answer to Town Council.

The process could be sped by seeking applications for a director before the board is selected or before it reviews the director's job description, town manager Steve Riley said. The town will begin soliciting board member applications this week and hopes to select them in May.

The town will consider board candidates from a range of business backgrounds, and council will likely select five to nine members, according to Shawn Colin, town director of community development.

Hiring a director and creating a budget are the final steps in the group's formation and are expected to be completed by Sept. 15. However, the board could start working before a director is in place, Riley said.

The town could also could shorten the application periods for board members and the director, but that might only trim about a week from the process, Riley said.

Councilman George Williams said he was concerned about rushing the process, especially making decisions about the organization's director before the board is selected.

"I would hesitate for this body to establish a job description for a board that we're going to give a lot of, shall we say, respect and power. ... And they may have to live with whatever we decided would be a good job description," Williams said.

Riley said town staff will bring ideas for expediting the process to the council's April 2 meeting, when council is expected to review the organization's bylaws and the process for picking board members.

Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_Brian.

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