Beaufort News

Economic Alliance restructuring plans begin to take shape

Plans are beginning to take shape to restructure the Lowcountry Economic Alliance into the primary job-creation agency of Beaufort and Jasper counties.

Alliance board members met Tuesday to discuss their progress, bat around ideas and set a timeline for the project.

Earlier this month, a Beaufort County Council committee asked alliance officials to examine how their group could step up to fill the void left by the demise of a related organization, the Lowcountry Economic Network.

Kim Statler, a former network official now consulting for the alliance, said she hopes to use a Charleston-area organization as a model.

That group's approach is especially relevant because Charleston must perform the same "balancing act" between industry and tourism, she said. In addition, it is composed of just three counties. In contrast, ten counties make up the Upstate Alliance, one of the groups studied by a Beaufort County task force.

Plans are still in the initial stages, and much of the debate concerned conceptual foundations for the new group, such as the best way to engender community support or structure the new board.

For instance, Beaufort County Councilman Jerry Stewart, who also serves on the alliance, suggested that if an individual must make a significant monetary contribution in order to sit on the new board, the group might miss out on a significant resource -- the expertise of retired CEOs and businesspeople.

A "pay to play" board, he said, could mean "missing out on the knowledge and support of some people who would be very valuable and could contribute."

The alliance's legal counsel is drafting revised bylaws, which will be presented at another work session in about 10 days. If everything goes well, the alliance board could vote on them in mid November.

Beaufort and Jasper county councils then need to sign off on the changes.

Alliance members said they hope to receive approval -- and funding for the rest of the fiscal year -- by resolution from each county council in December.

Beaufort County formerly contributed $270,000 annually to the network. After the network shut its doors, county staff said during this year's budget process that amount had been changed to $150,000 and a generic placeholder line item created for economic development.

Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.

RELATED CONTENT:Officials begin analyzing Lowcountry Economic Alliance evolution, Oct. 7, 2011

Alliance steps closer to becoming county's main job-creation agency, Oct. 3, 2011

Task force unveils economic development study, Sept. 27, 2011

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