Monday, December 13, 2010

Shop local: keep dollars at home, not in Third World

Bluffton Today

I got a lot of good feedback on last week’s column, especially concerning the “shop local” part. When you shop with a local merchant, your dollars stay home and circulate in the community, lifting a lot of local boats. When you shop at the chain stores and the big box places, those dollars end up leaving almost immediately, usually coming to rest in China, Indonesia, Taiwan or South Korea.

It makes sense to keep our dollars home as much as we can. I’m also working to repatriate even more of our dollars that left here for Columbia, but that’s another story. Speaking of local value, we have a couple of excellent institutions of higher learning in the University of South Carolina Beaufort and the Technical College of the Lowcountry.

I was recently a visitor at TCL, in the government class of my friend Bob Dixon. Bob is a brilliant fellow who is a semi-retired professor, teaching government and history at TCL. While his students are preparing for success in their work lives, he is helping make sure they have the context and information to be successful in their citizenship obligations as well. If the quality of their questions is any indication, he is doing a great job of preparing his students for what lies ahead.

We are fortunate to have these two post-secondary institutions in our neighborhood. Not only do local folks have the opportunity to continue their education without leaving home, they also have a choice between two excellent, cost-effective alternatives. One is slanted toward academics while the other is more focused on job training and work skills. What they have in common is they provide an entire spectrum of education and training opportunity for young people, and not-so-young people, to get what they need to be successful contributors in our local economic and civic life.

Also of local interest, I have been working with the S.C. Department of Commerce and the Governor’s Office in pursuing dollars from the Renaissance Community Development Block Grant Program.

I am pleased to announce that the Town of Bluffton will receive a Village Renaissance Grant of $500,000. These funds are targeted at the Buck Island/Simmonsville Road area of Bluffton and will be used for sidewalks, drainage, water and sewer. As of this writing, I have instructed the Department of Commerce and the grants administration to forward the grant agreement to the Town of Bluffton for execution.

The importance of this is two-fold: the infrastructure improvements will likely make this area much more attractive for business development and job creation. Secondly, the drainage and sewer improvements should take some runoff pressure off our waterways, further enhancing our quality of life and recreation opportunities. Also, there are a lot of good people living in this community that have been waiting patiently for these basic improvements to their neighborhood.

These Community Development grants are one of the ways we return your tax dollars back to you. We are working hard to repatriate many more of these dollars, especially education dollars, back to Beaufort County as we prepare for the upcoming session.

I am optimistic, especially with the new configuration of the delegation, that we can build on our successes and ultimately reach parity in education and infrastructure funding with the rest of the state.