City officials hope to announce new Beaufort Commerce Park tenant in 2013

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City officials hope to announce new Beaufort Commerce Park tenant in 2013

By ERIN MOODY
emoody@beaufortgazette.com
Published Wednesday, December 26, 2012   |  476 Words  |  

Beaufort officials hope "Project Robot" will lead to a new tenant in the Beaufort Commerce Park, the first since the city bought the park earlier this year.

The project has been discussed by City Council in closed-door sessions, but little has been revealed publicly. City officials have declined to release the name of the manufacturing company involved.

Mayor Billy Keyserling said he hopes an announcement that the company will come to Beaufort will occur in the first quarter of 2013. He would only say the company pays wages "at or above" the state average, which was $16.29 an hour for manufacturing in 2009, the most recent year figures were available, according to the state website. He declined to say how many jobs would be created.

Government bodies are allowed to discuss the proposed location and expansion of industrial prospects behind closed doors. Once a contract is signed, however, the information must be made public.

"Until it's real, we can't talk about it," Keyserling said.

The confidentiality is necessary because of the competitive nature of attracting businesses, said Kim Statler, executive director of the Lowcountry Economic Alliance, which has been assigned to coordinate business-recruitment in Beaufort County.

"The point is to get the company committed to the community," she said.

The city voted to buy the 209-acre-park -- 167 acres of which are buildable -- from S.C. Bank and Trust on April 3 for $1.85 million. The sale closed May 31. The commerce park, located off U.S. 21, has struggled for years. The Lowcountry Economic Network, which previously owned the park, went bankrupt last year when it could not afford the mortgage and sold the park at auction for $2 million to S.C. Bank & Trust.

City officials have publicly commented about prospective businesses in general terms only, including mentioning a site visit by an unnamed international business and possible expansion of a local business.

Statler said officials are doing "everything we can" to promote the park and attract businesses. Neither she nor Keyserling would discuss details of incentives the city has discussed offering to prospects.

"The last thing we want to do is give away something we don't need to, so we work with the company to find out what makes Beaufort County competitive and then we fill the gaps," Statler said.

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