The third time was no charm.
A deal to sell the shuttered Port of Port Royal from the S.C. State Ports Authority became the third to fall through since 2006, leaving the state agency with unused property on its hands and the town of Port Royal with ambitious plans that remain frozen in schematics and blueprints.
The deal's failure was The Beaufort Gazette's top business story in northern Beaufort County for 2012.
The property, which includes 52 acres of buildable land, had been set to sell for $17 million under the terms of a contract between the Ports Authority and the Port Royal Redevelopment Group, which lost about a half million dollars in nonrefundable deposits.
The contract was negotiated in summer 2011, but the development group, which sought to finance both the purchase and at least some of the construction that would follow, could not secure the funding it needed despite four deadline extensions from the Ports Authority.
The property is listed for sale by real estate firm NAI Avant at $20.4 million, and the Ports Authority is seeking an updated appraisal.
The town of Port Royal is set to vote Jan. 2 for a second time on a new development agreement with the authority. It includes more financial protection for the town by covering planning and engineering costs and has additional rules for the transfer of property and removal of a deteriorating boat dry-stack storage building.
In other top business stories:
2. City purchases struggling commerce park: The city of Beaufort purchased the foreclosed Beaufort Commerce Park for $1.85 million in May from the banks that owned it. Its previous owner, the now-bankrupt Lowcountry Economic Network, went broke trying to make its mortgage payments during the economic downturn, and Beaufort County Council declined to bail out its economic-development partner in 2011. City officials think they can succeed where the LEN failed, partnering with one of its offshoots, the Beaufort Economic Alliance, to attract businesses and industry to the area. A pilot military education transition program is being developed to train future employees. However, no new tenants have been announced.
3. Jasper County bolts the Lowcountry Economic Alliance: After disagreements over the organization's bylaws, the Lowcountry Economic Alliance lost Jasper County as a member. The departure meant the alliance is no longer considered a multi-county regional economic-development organization, making it ineligible for a vital state grants. The group formed in 2008 in cooperation with Beaufort County to attract those grants and jump-start job growth. Jasper County joined the five-county Southern Carolina Alliance, with officials saying that group attracts industries more suitable for Jasper. The SCA also includes Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Hampton and Colleton counties. The LEA is no longer considered a regional economic alliance, a change that could cost it up to $600,000 in matching funds next year.
4. Governor doesn't budge on Indian casino proposal: Developers announced ambitious plans for a a 400-room luxury hotel and Indian casino and conference center on 50 acres within Hilton Head Lakes off U.S. 278 in the city of Hardeeville this past spring. Federal law allows Indian tribes to operate gaming operations on existing reservations or elsewhere if approved by the governor of a state in which the tribe historically has had a presence. Therein lies the rub for developers: Gov. Nikki Haley has steadfastly refused to approve, apparently putting their plans on hold indefinitely. However, Hardeeville city manager Bob Nanni said in November that he wants to reinvigorate the year-old project in the coming year.
5. City of Beaufort sets new bed-tax rules: The city of Beaufort is changing its method of distributing accommodation tax grants to nonprofit organizations. In fact, they've been deciding on changes for quite some time -- grants are typically decided early fall and applications will not go out to nonprofits until at least January. Also known as a bed tax, the money is intended to fund programs promoting tourism and attract visitors from out of the area. New rules emphasize cooperation between groups vying for funding and more financial reporting.
- New Port of Port Royal property agreement considered, Dec. 12, 2012
- Beaufort celebrates Commerce Park purchase; no new tenants secured, July 12, 2012
- Jasper County considering leaving Lowcountry Economic Alliance, May 4, 2012
- Deck still stacked against casino project, Nov. 24, 2012
- Cooperation a must for groups seeking Beaufort accommodations taxes, Oct. 27, 2012