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Beaufort County Council favors regional approach to economic development

Beaufort County Council unanimously adopted a resolution Monday endorsing a regional economic development plan encompassing both Beaufort and Jasper counties.

Council's vote promises that county staff and at least one council member will participate in the regional planning process. The resolution also says the county will encourage local municipalities to participate.

Jasper County is considering a similar resolution, according to Kim Statler, executive director of the Lowcountry Economic Network, a public-private partnership that recruits business to the area.

A regional plan would help officials set priorities and identify opportunities to attract new businesses and diversify the area's tax base, Statler said.

She said it would also identify the region's deficiencies and outline ways to address them.

"In order to be competitive, you have to put it out on the table and correct it," she said.

Council chairman Weston Newton asked Statler if the plan would set benchmarks for the region to meet and if it would be reasonable to expect efforts to create 500 jobs in five years.

Statler said she believes 500 new jobs is an attainable goal if the region plans cooperatively.

"Doing it collectively is the only way we're going to get there, seeing how our economies are so tied together," she said.

Statler said she hopes a draft of the plan will be presented to council for review in January.

In other action, council on Monday:

  • Approved a grant of $78,835 from the Friends of the Hilton Head Library for materials for the Hilton Head branch library. The grant matches the amount the county allocated for materials for the branch this fiscal year.
  • Renewed a contract for public ferry service to and from Daufuskie Island with J&W Corp. The estimated cost for the one-year contract beginning Nov. 1 is $180,000.
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