During my 20 years on the Beaufort-Jasper Higher Education Commission, I have watched the University of South Carolina Beaufort steadily increase its capabilities to serve local citizens, attract young people to our region, and hire exceptional faculty who now lead 25 baccalaureate degree programs.
The USCB arena, proposed during the recent capital sales tax discussion, offers new opportunities for Beaufort County. Every other S.C. county our size has access to such a venue within a reasonable distance, often hosted on the local university's campus.
University/county collaborations reduce total costs and increase usage of facilities that neither entity could do alone. Beaufort County can afford an arena only by leveraging USCB infrastructure that reduces the project cost by 50 percent. The USCB location offers land, existing parking, water, sewer, a storm water system as well as electrical, heating and air capacity. USCB would operate the 4,000-seat venue. The U.S. 278/I-95 location is accessible for all county citizens.
Together, Beaufort County and USCB considered this visionary project for many reasons: to increase the quality of life, diversify our tax base, attract appropriate knowledge-based businesses and increase our region's competitiveness in the global tourism market. The proposed arena is a vital element of a growing university and a game changer for Beaufort County. The tourists who benefit from these facilities would contribute almost half of the cost of construction through sales tax proceeds. Let's get to work to make it happen.
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H. Tim Pearce
Editor's note: Pearce is the chairman of the Beaufort-Jasper Higher Education Commission.