Business

Consultants want your input about economic development

Consultants charting a course for the region's economy will visit the area this month to seek input from local leaders and the public.

Three of the consultants, picked by the Lowcountry Economic Alliance earlier this year, will spend two days meeting with alliance officials; property owners; a committee of business, education and government leaders; and focus groups representing segments of the local economy such as tourism, the military, retirees and entrepreneurs.

They also want the public to share views in an online survey at surveymonkey.com/s/lowcountrysc.

The consultants -- two from Avalanche Consulting of Austin, Texas, and one from McCallum Sweeney of Greenville -- have already spent about a month analyzing the local economy, Avalanche president Amy Holloway said.

After their visit, they will use the information they gather online and in-person to help produce a list of industries they believe are well-suited for the region, said Kim Statler of Lowcountry Consulting, which was hired by the alliance last month to oversee the study, work with prospective businesses and perhaps supervise lobbying efforts in Columbia.

The consultants also will suggest strategies to target the recommended industries, she said.

Holloway said the consultants will work to include average residents. "We like to get a diversity of people in the room with us, so we're not just talking to the same people" who often work on economic development, Holloway said.

The consultants expect to meet with 80 to 100 people and hear from more through the survey, she said.

"We can't meet with every single person in the community, but we can definitely get their input," Holloway said.

Alliance officials will begin the first day, Aug. 23, by introducing the consultants to local property owners. The consultants will be treated as if they represent a prospective company considering setting up shop in the region, Statler said. At 4 p.m., the consultants will meet with the steering committee at the Bluffton library.

The second day will include the focus groups and individual interviews, Statler said.

The consultants will meet again with the committee in online "webinars" before returning, probably in October, to share the team's recommendations, Holloway said.

She said those recommendations should be much more specific than local economic developers' previous focus areas: aeronautics, knowledge-intensive, green and logistics businesses.

By identifying more specific niches within broad categories like those, the region should be able to better tailor its marketing efforts by homing in on which conferences executives in those niches attend, which magazines they read and which criteria are most important when they select new sites, Holloway said.

"That's the level we want to get the Lowcountry to," she said.

The alliance, primarily funded by the state, has said the study will cost about $116,900, with $25,000 of that coming from a grant from the S.C. Power Team, a group that includes state-owned electric utility Santee Cooper and the state's 20 electric cooperatives.

The alliance's study is separate from a similar effort under way by Beaufort County. The county has selected a different Austin firm, AngelouEconomics, which proposed a two-stage study of the county's job-creation efforts, said banker Gary Horn, chairman of the task force overseeing the study. The first stage, expected to cost about $50,000, should be done within a week or two, he said.

Follow reporter Josh McCann at twitter.com/LowCoBiz

Related content

  1. Alliance picks team for expanded economic development study, June 3, 2011
  2. Economic-development task force to suggest $50,000 study, May 18, 2011
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