Beaufort News

Jasper County considering leaving Lowcountry Economic Alliance

After months of political tension and what they called a lack of action, Jasper County officials said they might vote to leave the Lowcountry Economic Alliance as soon as Monday.

The alliance, formed between Jasper and Beaufort counties in 2008 to attract state grants and jump start job growth, has come under fire recently from some members.

Gregg Malphrus, the group's chairman, and Kim Statler, it's executive director, recently resigned. The group was also at an impasse earlier this year over adopting new bylaws, which fueled disagreement among the six-member board of directors. Three members from each county sit on the alliance board.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Jasper County Council and officials from Hardeeville and Ridgeland heard presentations from the Southern Carolina Alliance, an economic group whose members include Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Hampton and Colleton counties. Those presentations came after Jasper County officials invited the group to discuss it's approach to economic growth with an eye on possibly joining it.

Most liked what they heard.

Officials said they were impressed by how well the group, which has a 36-members, works together and said the industries it has attracted would better fit Jasper County's economy.

Among the industries the South Carolina Alliance has attracted to the five-county area, are Kronotex, a wood laminate floor company, and Georgia Pacific, one of the country's largest paper and packaging companies.

Marty Sauls, who sits on the Lowcountry Economic Alliance and the Jasper County Council, said the current group has been spinning its wheels for too long.

"I haven't seen any results," he said. "I don't see the stability for what Jasper County will get out of this."

Jasper County Council would have to approve ending the relationship with the Lowcountry Economic Alliance.

Sauls stopped short of saying the group is ready to do that, but other council members said they already know how they would vote.

"We need to get out of what we're in now," Jasper councilman Samuel Gregory said.

The agenda for council's Monday meeting lists a discussion of the Lowcountry Economic Alliance during an executive session.

"There could be a vote after executive session if we can get a consensus from the county council to move on," Gregory said.

Sauls said he has not talked directly with any Beaufort County alliance members.

County Administrator Gary Kubic, councilman Jerry Stewart and attorney David Tigges represent Beaufort on the alliance board.

All three were not available for comment Thursday night.

Related content

  1. Economic Alliance postpones vote for chairman, April 24, 2012
  2. Executive director of Lowcountry Economic Alliance announces departure from group, April 23, 2012
  3. Beaufort County economic alliance hits another snag, April 19, 2012