Monday, April 27, 2009

Keep going with what works

Bluffton Today

As the session starts to go into its final lap, we are working on the statewide issues that must be completed. In addition, I am also focusing on the particulars of the many economic development initiatives that will benefit our area in both the long and short runs. Many of these I have outlined for you in previous columns and most are in cooperation with Kim Statler, the outstanding head of the Lowcountry Economic Development Network.

Those of you who may be regular visitors to this space in your Monday paper know that economic development and the associated jobs that come along with economic development are a big part of my effort on your behalf.

My reasoning is this: an area with good, well-paying, stable jobs is a place with stronger families, lower crime, higher quality of life and all the things we want our community to be.

With a strong local economy, we can afford to spend more on educating our children, as well as offering all the adjuncts to education that make the experience richer. This, in turn, prepares the young folks for a productive work life close to home, if that is what they choose.

Consequently, if you hear me go on and on about economic development and job creation, I hope you will bear with me. In my view, it’s what makes our community work, so to speak.

One of the drivers of the economy in the Old Town is the art business. Many of the visitors you see walking the streets and filling the restaurants are here because of our interesting collection of artists and galleries. None is more interesting than my friend Amos Hummell.

Amos is not only a painter of note, but a performer and educator as well. In fact, he is putting together a proposal that will combine arts education, performance and exhibition opportunities in and around the Old Town. This will build on the programs already in place at SOBA (Society of Bluffton Artists) and the workshops and seminars offered by the various galleries. Amos is not one to think small so a whole lot of community involvement will be required to bring his vision to fulfillment. When you see him, ask about it. Amos may change some lives with his big ideas.

It makes sense to leverage what is already working as far as tourism and the visitor economy is concerned, to enlarge and diversify the effect of the arts, as well as historic preservation, natural history and local seafood to create an interesting intersection between our place and our economy.

Let me say a few words about the May River situation. I attended a good meeting last week with Mayor Sulka, Chairman Newton, and Senator Davis, along with key staff people and representatives from DHEC. The topic was the long-term sustainability of the May River and Larry and Tina Toomer’s oyster operation.

I was encouraged by the determination among these bright folks to do whatever is necessary to save the estuary over the long haul and to protect the viability of the Toomer’s operation while we get this problem sorted out. To that end, I believe Sen. Davis and I can offer some modest legislative help, as well as direct some environmental protection dollars to the town and the county.

I will keep you apprised on this and all critical developments in our portion of the Lowcountry.