Beaufort County told to set sights on international business

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comJanuary 14, 2014 

Businesses in Germany and eastern Canada should be near the top of the recruiting list for Beaufort County and the Lowcountry Economic Alliance, an economic development consultant said Tuesday.

Many German businesses are relocating to fend off sky-high electric bills, and businesses in eastern Canada want to be closer to U.S. markets, according to Amy Holloway, president of Avalanche Consulting.

Armed with the marketing plan Avalanche has developed for the alliance, Beaufort County could be poised to take advantage of those economic development targets, Holloway told the alliance's board of directors during its meeting at Palmetto Electric's New River office.

The nonprofit alliance is Beaufort County's economic-development arm.

The Lowcountry Economic Alliance hired Avalanche in 2012 to create an economic development strategy that identified industries that would fit well in Beaufort County. The consultants identified health care, call centers and information-technology offices.

That study has been the backbone of the alliance's recent efforts, and last fall, the alliance paid about $40,000 to hire the Austin, Texas-based firm again, this time to develop a more detailed marketing plan to reach those industries, alliance director Kim Statler said.

"When you are competing with Greenville, Columbia and Charleston and those monster organizations ... we have got to find the pockets where they're not," Statler said.

The alliance's $40,000 annual marketing budget -- below the hundreds of thousands spent on marketing by similar groups in Charleston and Myrtle Beach -- will require a strict focus on a couple of regions and industries, Holloway said.

"This economic development can't be a shotgun approach," she said.

Instead of thinking "biomedicine," for example, the alliance should think "medical device distribution," Holloway said. Then it can try to connect with those businesses in targeted regions, such as Germany, Canada, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

However, much of the economic development push must take place within Beaufort County, Holloway said.

Local businesses, municipalities and organizations need to be involved in small ways for economic development to succeed, she said. For example, increase the volunteer base by asking local business leaders to contribute their insights about the business community for a newsletter, she said.

In addition, the alliance and all of its partners need to decide what economic development should entail, said Jerry Stewart, County Council's representative on the alliance board.

Holloway agreed and added that the marketing plan would build on projects the alliance is already working on, such as creating an inventory of developed land and office buildings in Beaufort County.

The alliance is "taking the right steps, but it's one step at a time," Holloway said.

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.

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