Sunday, April 15, 2012

From the House

Bluffton Today

Today is the final day of what has been an extremely exciting golf tournament at Harbour Town Golf Links on the south end of Hilton Head Island. This the first year for Royal Bank of Canada and Boeing as sponsors. I have had a few social chats with executives from both companies and they are absolutely giddy at the return on their investment in our prestigious golf week. The weather has been spectacular, the crowds were huge and properly respectful, and the golf course is in superb shape. Our hats are off to tournament director Steve Wilmot for another tremendous event.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the low-altitude flyover by the new Boeing Dreamliner. As a pilot and an admirer of beautiful aircraft, I can say without reservation that she’s a real beauty, a South Carolina beauty.

My good friend Weston Newton, currently chairman of Beaufort County Council, told me that there were dozens of photographers and motion picture cameras stationed around Sea Pines, on boats in Calibogue Sound, and all around Daufuskie Island set to capture the image of the gorgeous aircraft powering through a cloudless, blue, Lowcountry sky, with the iconic Harbour Town lighthouse in the background. I cannot wait for the release of those images. Weston and I agreed that we would probably see a photo that tells the world a lot of what they need to know about our great state.

In the last weeks as we have been on furlough, I have done a lot of walking and talking with business owners in Bluffton. What I am hearing and seeing is more information that folks need to know about South Carolina, or at least our gorgeous corner of the state. Business is good. The art galleries are full, the restaurants are bustling, and any talk of recession or downturn is a fading memory. I know Old Town Bluffton is atypical in any number of ways, from Ted Huffman’s barbeque, to Linda Potter’s watercolors, to the architecture of the waterfront Church of the Cross. Having said that, I believe we can generalize to a certain degree about the visitor portion of our economy by the fact that I met not only the regular folks from Ohio and Indiana, but also a number of Canadians, a few visitors from the UK and even a nice couple from the Caribbean coast of Columbia, South America. It seems that our international marketing efforts at Parks, Recreation, and Tourism (PRT) are starting to pay dividends.

Finally, I am pleased to report that the affordable redevelopment project along Wharf Street in Bluffton has been selected for a housing achievement award by the South Carolina Housing Finance Development Authority. The project, spearheaded by former Councilman Fred Hamilton and Mayor Lisa Sulka, actually tied with Brookside Gardens in Greenville, South Carolina. Brookside Gardens is recognized as one of the best and most progressive upward bound housing projects in the country, so we are keeping some pretty good company these days. Thanks go to my friend Marc Orlando, of the Town of Bluffton, for the information, which I submitted for the competition.

We return to session Tuesday, and as always, you will hear the particulars, whether it’s good or not so good, in this space every week.