Beaufort Commerce Park recently earned a state designation city leaders hope draws business to the empty 161-acre industrial area.
The site has been recognized as a Palmetto Site by the S.C. Department of Commerce, according to a news release. The designation includes a report from a consulting firm on the strengths and weaknesses of the site, which can be shared with potential businesses.
The park has been empty since the city bought it out of foreclosure for $1.8 million in 2012. Some prospects have shown interest, but the city wanted to be sure the proper foundation is in place moving forward, said Stephen Murray, a City Councilman and Redevelopment Commission member who helped secure the designation.
City and Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce leaders feel the recognition will make Beaufort County more competitive in luring business.
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“This isn’t a silver bullet — just because we have this designation, folks aren’t going to flood into the park,” he said. “But I think it’s a step in the right direction that tells (the state) we are motivated and wanting to play ball.”
Working with the city, the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce applied for the designation this summer. McCallum Sweeney Consulting analyzed the property and offered suggestions for improving its readiness, the news release said.
Among the property’s strengths the firm identified:
▪ Mostly high ground
▪ Access to U.S. 17 and Interstate 95
▪ Existing infrastructure of roads and sewer
▪ Beaufort County’s job growth compared to the rest of the state
▪ High school graduation rates and number of residents holding college degrees
Among the issues with the site:
▪ Lack of a master plan
▪ No rail service
▪ Multiple wetlands
▪ No traffic light on U.S. 21
Murray said in the release the program will help improve the property’s marketability and give the Department of Commerce updated information when meeting with potential tenants.
The Redevelopment Commission will consider the recommendations and decide which might be possible.
A railroad line is out of reach, for example, but developing a master plan or assessing communications infrastructure could be in play, Murray said.