The folding of the Lowcountry Economic Alliance should have little effect as the organization had little success in luring businesses to the county.
An expensive yet incoherent effort, the nonprofit was to woo businesses to Beaufort County and the city of Beaufort. But success never came. Two prospects touted by the group in the past year -- manufacturers EcoDual and DUER High Performance Composites -- have closed their local operations. And Beaufort's commerce park for which the LEA was supposed to find occupants sits mostly empty.
Indeed, the reasons for the LEA's failure are multi-faceted. Certainly, a divided Beaufort County Council sent mixed signals to the nonprofit as to what its priorities should be. The recession hurt business recruitment efforts. And LEA officials said funding for their work was inadequate. Uncertainty about funding for next year led the nonprofit's board of directors to recently vote to disband.
The decision puts Beaufort County and the city of Beaufort back at square one on attracting high-tech, 21st century companies to their borders. Just how to proceed is up in the air.
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We would suggest the following be given serious consideration:
- Beaufort County should continue to explore a partnership with another economic development group that includes Jasper County, called the Southern Carolina Alliance. The organization has had some success and, because it includes multiple counties, it is eligible for state dollars. Beaufort County may be a good fit for the alliance.
The desire to foster a more diverse economy and create better-paying, year-round jobs is admirable. But the method by which it is pursued is as important as the goal.