Beaufort County Council is right to go back to the basics, withholding money from its economic-develoment partner and rethinking its strategy for luring new businesses here.
Last week, council members voted down a $200,000 request from the Lowcountry Economic Alliance that has a poor record of bringing new tax-generating businesses into the county.
In fact, the alliance has caused some embarrassment in its recent attempts. Less than a year after the alliance and local officials touted the relocation and expansion of two manufacturing businesses with great fanfare, neither is operating in the county. Meanwhile, a commerce park the alliance is supposed to help fill with tenants sits mostly empty.
When recently questioned by council members on its lack of success, the alliance's only response was that it needs more money to yield results.
With such a track record, council had little choice but to deny the request -- as well as a second request for $80,000.
Now, the county is taking a much-needed look around to see what other economic development opportunities exist. Several council members attended a recent meeting of the Southern Carolina Regional Development Alliance, a mammoth economic development organization that includes Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties. (Jasper County was a co-member of the LEA until it became disenchanted with the lack of progress and joined the Southern Carolina Regional one.)
Beaufort County's talks with the organization could result in one of two potentially positive outcomes:
Big picture, the county deserves credit for realizing its long-held economic development strategy is a bust, and that no good will come from pumping more public dollars into the failed effort.
Admitting defeat and starting over may be the first step toward success.