Monday, October 18, 2010

Economic prospects are looking better

Bluffton Today

We did have quite a few contacts this week, down a bit from last week. I attribute the falloff to the fact that most folks now understand that school issues are handled by the school board and not your state representative. I am fully engaged in education business but more from a funding and coordination standpoint.

We continue to meet with the Lowcountry Economic Network and executive director Kim Statler. Our immediate economic prospects in the Lowcountry are rising, especially when we look at help wanted ads in this paper and others in the neighborhood. My interviews around Greater Bluffton with business people generally confirm an upward trend in employment. I know this is cold comfort to those of you without jobs. My message to you is that we are looking up economically and to not become discouraged. We were the last to feel the impact of the great recession and we are among the first to see the beginnings of renewed prosperity.

One of the potential solutions to our employment situation may be found in a new business just opened in Old Town Bluffton. It is called the Bluffton Business Club and is the idea of Shelley Hodges and the West family, locals all. It is a non-profit outfit that allows new and incubating businesses to start off many of their office functions at a very low cost. They are located off Goethe Rd. in a new building close to the Calhoun Street Promenade. Stop in for a cup of coffee and have a chat with these bright young folks. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

A number of you called this week in some distress over the fact that Hardeeville is continuing to annex land in Beaufort County. There is reason to be concerned, especially given the informative and to-the-point op-ed recently released by Hardeeville Mayor Bostick. This is the very outcome I was trying to avoid as we negotiated the Sembler matter. The Hardeeville and Jasper County folks are simply desperate for jobs and they are going to do whatever it takes, wise or unwise, to produce some level of employment. My effort was to recognize their concerns, as well as give Beaufort County some role in their process. The unfortunate outcome is they feel, with some justification, that we are burdening them with our environmental standards while blocking their job creation efforts. Their response is to annex more businesses away from Beaufort County. This is obviously not a preferred outcome.

My annexation reform package continues to make the rounds from Coastal Conservation League, to the various counties and municipalities. It will be prefiled after the reviews are in. The answer to our common problems is not further abuse of the annexation statutes, but true intergovernmental cooperation based on a modicum of mutual respect. This was the intent of the Priority Investment Act. Unfortunately, with no enforcement power, the PIA is something of a courtesy rather than a mandate.

Finally, one of the themes of the campaign season is transparency. While there has never been any suggestion that my legislative finances are questionable, I will post all my income and expenditures that are derived from taxpayer dollars on my web site in the near future. I doubt that such disclosure will become law any time soon, but I would prefer to be open in all matters involving the people’s money.