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The Beaufort Commerce Park is scheduled to belong to the city by Thursday, and officials are making plans for what happens next.
The city is buying the 209-acre park from S.C. Bank and Trust for $1.85 million, after the bank bought it at auction last fall for $2 million.
It will be financed through 10-year general obligation bonds carrying an interest rate of 2.11 percent, according to city manger Scott Dadson. BB&T won the contract Friday to issue the bonds.
After the city completes the purchase, City Council will work with the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce to arrange a grand opening event, Dadson said.
Then the city plans to rehabilitate the park, which has struggled for years and is mostly vacant. To that end, members of City Council, the city Redevelopment Commission and the chamber met Tuesday with Jim Rozier, a retired Berkeley County Council chairman who said he helped bring big industry to what was "dirt farming and bootlegging" land.
Rozier said he helped attract $8.5 billion in investments and 43,000 jobs in 14 years. The county identified areas to build in, worked with landowners to install water and sewer, and courted prospective businesses with incentives. He said Beaufort's location midway between Savannah and Charleston ports and near major highways puts it in a strong position.
One of the keys to Berkeley County's success was getting the community involved and educated, Rozier said. He identified key community members across the county, taught them about industrial recruitment and dispatched them to spread their knowledge to residents.
Community support is one of Beaufort's weaknesses, said Lowcountry Economic Alliance executive director Kim Statler. The general public does not understand industrial development, she said, but an educational effort would help get residents on board with the park development plan.
"It's a local sell first -- no question," Redevelopment Commission member Patrick Kase said.
Business recruitment also requires fast action, Rozier said. When he was council chairman, he would present a list of guidelines to his fellow council members and would negotiate deals within those limits. They would give him leeway to quickly make offers without seeking permission at every step in the process, he said.
Other important elements are cooperation and understanding among local officials and agencies, which was a problem in Berkeley County, Rozier said.
"You never beat each other," he said. "You throw conflict in the middle of the table, and you beat conflict to death."