Hilton Head council still searching for guidance to lure new business

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Hilton Head council still searching for guidance to lure new business

By TOM BARTON
tbarton@islandpacket.com
Published Tuesday, April 17, 2012   |  605 Words  |  

Despite months of debate and study by a town task force, Hilton Head Island Town Council remains unsure as to how it should go about attracting new business to the island.

Council voted unanimously Tuesday to create a citizens advisory board tasked with bringing to council within 90 days plans for forming an economic development group and redevelopment opportunities.

A 13-member group appointed by former Mayor Tom Peeples spent eight months two years ago reviewing town planning documents and data to form strategies aimed at preventing economic decline on the island.

The task force's recommendations to council in August 2010 included creating "investment zones," a redevelopment authority or community-development corporation, and an economic-development commission to promote new business.

Mayor Drew Laughlin and town manager Steve Riley say key questions about how such an economic-development commission would be structured, how much authority it would have and how it would fit with regional efforts haven't been answered -- but must be to achieve tangible results.

"This is a step in the direction of taking those ideas (from the task force) and exploring them in more depth," Laughlin said. "You have to crawl before you walk and walk before you run. You have to define what work you want it to do and the capabilities it's to have to carry out assigned tasks."

Council members debated at length last fall and winter what economic development should mean for the island, if town staff has the experience to support such an endeavor, whether it should hire someone who does and whether recruiting businesses to the island should be left to the regional Lowcountry Economic Alliance.

Council seemed to favor creating a nonprofit corporation that would use public investment to entice the private sector to revitalize aging commercial centers and diversify the economy, but felt it needed more guidance.

Kumar Viswanathan, member of the mayor's task force, applauded council's decision Tuesday despite being frustrated by its indecision over the issue at a meeting in October.

"What can I say -- the wheels of democracy turn slowly," Viswanathan wrote in response to an Island Packet email. "As long as it's moving forward, we should be grateful."

A group leading economic development and redevelopment on Hilton Head is vital for the island's long-term economic future, and its critical that the proper structure be put in place, he said.

The committee will be supported by Planning Commission member Terry Ennis, who spearheaded an effort to streamline the town's commercial permitting process.

University of South Carolina Beaufort associate professor John Salazar, director of the LowCountry and Resort Islands Tourism Institute, will also lend his expertise, according to town staff.

Members appointed to the board are: Hilton Head Public Service District general manager Richard Cyr, Peter Parrott, town Planning Commissioner Tom Lennox, town LMO Rewrite Committee member Jim Gant, and Bill Harkins as Town Council liaison.

Related Content

  1. Mayor's task force outlines recommendations to fuel Hilton Head's economy: Aug. 31, 2012
  2. Frustration surfaces amid economic-development planning: Oct. 17, 2011
  3. Hilton Head looks to other towns for revitalization ideas: Sept. 26, 2011
  4. Hilton Head turns to Columbia, Greenville for economic-development ideas: Oct. 18, 2010