County's resources prime factors in attracting new business

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Geismar-Modern Track Machinery, a manufacturer and distributor of railway maintenance equipment, moved to Beaufort County in 2017. Officials say they couldn't be happier with the excellent quality of life and work force. COURTESY GEISMAR NORTH AMERICA

Longtime and new residents and visitors of Beaufort County are well aware of the beauty of the area, with such natural amenities such as mild climate, clean air, abundant waterways, and lush green spaces.

Other attractions include good jobs, schools and health care.

For businesses considering new locations for starting or expanding their operations, the county also boasts other resources, such as skilled labor force; favorable labor costs and tax rates; available buildings or land; easy access via land, water and air; and state and local incentives. Quality of life is also an important factor.

But sometimes those businesses aren't aware of the county's exceptional offerings.

That's where the Beaufort County Economic Development Corporation (BCEDC) comes in. The organization was created in 2017 and hired its executive director, John O'Toole, in October of that year.

O'Toole, a certified economic developer, came to Beaufort with an award-winning reputation from Connecticut. The BCEDC is charged with diversifying the county's economy, improving resident's lives by attracting good-paying jobs, and encouraging growth that is respectful of the environment residents and visitors treasure.

The BCEDC must promote the county's resources to those industries looking at the prime factors in site location or relocation. Beaufort County consistently scores high in the decision points that matter.

"South Carolina's economy has been on fire," O'Toole said. "We have been working hard to get the message out that Beaufort County is in the economic development game. Just recently, we had a high-tech company decide to stay and expand in Beaufort County. We beat out Orlando and Pittsburgh."

BCEDC's project manager Charlie Stone points to the results. "We're working to help investors understand Beaufort's value proposition," he said. "Our message is resonating with investors."

Since last July, the BCEDC has attracted 14 projects that represent more than $40 million in investment, 313 new jobs and 104 retained jobs.

"We believe these projects improve peoples lives," Stone said. "They represent more than $15 million in income, averaging out to more than $48,000 per employee."

Stone said nearly 80% of the organization's leads come from someone who is already living and working here.

While some locales struggle with providing enough qualified personnel, Stone said the BCEDC has identified a new sector that could prove viable. "Exiting military seems to be our ace in hole on the issue of workforce," he said, "but we're also working with our partners to identify other overlooked sources of workforce."

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