Workshop targets ideas on how to attract businesses to Bluffton

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Workshop targets ideas on how to attract businesses to Bluffton

By ALLISON STICE 843-706-8138
Published Tuesday, June 21, 2011   |  363 Words  |  

A workshop on how to attract businesses to Bluffton brought residents, developers and business owners to town hall Tuesday night.

Up for discussion was an economic development policy proposed by town manager Anthony Barrett to guide what incentives the town would offer.

The policy suggests waiving business license or development fees for companies that offer a certain amount of capital investments or number of jobs.

Barrett said a policy is needed quickly so town staff can have a framework to engage companies he said are constantly contacting the town about partnerships.

"We don't want to wait too long to get a document because they're knocking on the door," Barrett said.

The town has made economic development a top priority this year. At its May meeting, council voted to gather public input before adopting a policy.

About 15 people attended the workshop Tuesday.

The town should focus on companies who provide primary jobs that have a multiplier effect of creating more employment, Buckwalter Place developer Tom Zinn said. It should avoid companies in competition with existing industries, he added.

Councilman Mike Raymond reiterated concerns that the proposed policy is a "discount schedule" instead of an economic development policy. He urged council to work with the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce to market a "Bluffton brand" and recruit businesses that fit instead of merely adopting an incentive program.

The proposed policy needs to list concrete numbers on what companies must offer such as a minimum amount of jobs or wages, said Brad Samuel who works with economic development at SCANA Services Inc.

Samuel, who also served on a town Economic Base Diversification Task Force in the early 2000s, said the town should use a cost-benefit analysis when deciding which companies qualify.

The calculations "need to be in the light of day so all businesses and citizens can see them," Samuel said after the meeting.

Mayor Lisa Sulka asked for follow-up conversations and emails with those who attended and other business leaders before town council decides on a final version.