Beaufort County needs to pony up if it wants to be serious about recruiting businesses, according to local economic development leaders.
"The reputation in the state is that we're not serious about economic development, quite frankly," said David Tigges, board chairman of the Lowcountry Economic Alliance, the county's economic-development partner.
If the county were to commit more money to the group and agree to a contract that's several years long, the alliance could worry less about its own funding and more about striking business deals, alliance board members said.
"It would change the game fairly dramatically," board member Jon Verity said.
The alliance and council spent three hours discussing their partnership at a joint meeting Tuesday in Beaufort.
Next week, the council will consider giving the alliance $200,000 to recruit businesses to the county, the same amount the group received last year. That contribution was endorsed last month by the council's Governmental Committee, but the committee denied alliance director Kim Statler's request for an additional $80,000.
The alliance had hoped to use the additional money to take its recruiting pitch to prospects in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom, Statler has said.
The full council had been scheduled to vote on the contribution last week, but chose to postpone it until after Tuesday's discussion.
Some council members have said they are concerned their partnership has produced little fruit in recent years.
"I'm looking for a different kind of result, a different kind of performance than what we've seen so far," Councilman Rick Caporale said.
Two prospects touted by the alliance in the past year -- manufacturers EcoDual and DUER High Performance Composites -- have since shuttered local operations.
But alliance leaders urged the county to be patient and persistent. The county has partnered with the alliance for three years. Its previous partner, the Lowcountry Economic Network, which Statler also led, folded when Jasper County withdrew from the organization and the Beaufort Commerce Park, which the network owned, went into foreclosure.
"We're not going to have a win every month or every year," Tigges said. "It's going to take a long time to judge it."
"Let's give it another three to five years, see what happens," Verity added.
The council is considering adding to its contributions to the alliance by earmarking revenue from business-license fees. If the council endorses the plan, it could eventually up the county's contribution to the alliance to about $600,000 annually.
Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.
- Economic alliance receives $200,000 contribution from county , Sept. 2, 2014
- County to build new office to lure businesses to Bluffton , Aug. 26, 2014
- Beaufort County considers earmarking business fees for economic development , July 29, 2014
- Lowcountry Economic Alliance still Beaufort County's recruiter despite setbacks, Nov. 29, 2013