Beaufort News

Task force unveils economic development study

A new report on Beaufort County's approach to economic development calls for stronger ties with Jasper County, more business participation in public-private partnerships, and better accountability through annual performance evaluations.

The $40,000 study was commissioned by an ad-hoc task force created by the Beaufort County Council earlier this year. Amid debate over a proposed purchase of the Beaufort Commerce Park, the council assembled a group of local businessmen to examine job-creation efforts from the ground up.

Task-force chairman Gary Horn, market president of Coastal Banking Co., delivered a 54-page report to the council Monday, but the recommendations won't be vetted and discussed until next week.

The study was created by AngelouEconomics, an Austin, Texas, consulting company whose staff interviewed 22 business leaders and community officials throughout the county.

Steve Vierck, the company's president of economic development, said those interviews show local job-creation programs have both strengths and weaknesses.

"I think the foundation is in place, but there's areas that can be improved to make Beaufort County more competitive," he said.

Recommendations from the report include:

  • Strengthening ties with Jasper County and considering sharing the tax revenue generated by job-creation programs.
  • Improving accountability with better performance measures, such as an annual return-on-investment review.
  • Assessing county permitting and development-review, which are regarded by many as "onerous."
  • Marketing the county through additional sales missions and trade shows to attract employers.
  • Exploring opportunities to coordinate marketing with Savannah.
  • Consultants also interviewed leaders of four comparable economic-development groups and determined benchmarks for success.

    To match the per-capita median outcomes reported by those four groups, Beaufort County would need to attract or expand six business, create 450 new jobs and add $117 million of industry investment each year.

    The study is one of several concurrent discussions about job creation taking place countywide.

    A Hilton Head Island Town Council committee discussed Monday how best to revitalize aging commercial centers, and heard presentations from Greenville, Myrtle Beach, Rock Hill and the local economic-development officials.

    The Lowcountry Economic Alliance is conducting a separate study to determine specific industry niches to target. Consultants from Avalanche Consulting of Austin, Texas, and McCallum Sweeney of Greenville met with community leaders and focus groups representing segments of the local economy, such as tourism, the military, retirees and entrepreneurs.

    Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at

    Related contentAngelouEconomics report to Beaufort County's task force

    Hilton Head looks to other towns for revitalization ideas, Sept. 26, 2011

    Consultants want your input about economic development, Aug. 14, 2011

    Economic-development task force to suggest $50,000 study, May 18, 2011

    New task force to study economic development says it needs more time, April 5, 2011