It's time to get down to business on a proposed conference center for northern Beaufort County.
This worthwhile concept has been talked about for years. Leaders need to quit talking and start deciding. Put specifics on the table, and vote it up or down.
To that end, local governments should say "yes" when the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce's tourism arm asks for money for a new study. The chamber's Visitor and Convention Bureau seeks $12,000 each from the Beaufort and Port Royal municipalities and from the county's accommodations tax to help it put specifics on the table. That's a reasonable sum, but it needs to produce enough information to decide the issue, not kick the can down the road for more study.
The VCB director indicates the new study can do just that. Bob Moquin says it will provide facts needed to decide whether a conference center can be justified.
Policymakers need to know details on its size, location, cost to build, cost to maintain, cost to operate and the plan to market and staff it. Where will that money come from?
If local nonprofit, government, educational, arts or charitable groups would have to pay to use it, tell everyone up front. And give ideas as to what it would cost to use it. Don't surprise the public, which might think if public money is involved, use of the facility would be cheap or free.
Show how many days the facility would have to be occupied each year to break even financially, and give an idea as to who would be contracting to use it year in and year out.
The study should produce numbers to demonstrate a need for the conference center. It should show that every dollar spent on it will produce a greater economic return throughout the community.
The Beaufort area needs a larger gathering place, and the scale of the center as discussed through the years seems reasonable.
To date, the public has given a lot of input, which is good. A number of specific sites have been suggested, and a potential top three sites have been identified, though that could change.
As to the cost, the public has been assured it can work. A lot of information on the concept is available at the chamber's website: www.beaufortsc.org/cc.
Now, let's get down to the nitty-gritty. The new study is needed to put meat on the bones of a promising idea. Do the study, but make sure it produces enough information to make a decision.