Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Good news for economic development in SC

This week’s announcement of Volvo’s decision to locate in South Carolina is a great time for us to take a look at many of the other economic development successes happening in our state’s cities and towns.

And while manufacturing companies like Volvo often locate outside of a city limits, it’s often the amenities, services and quality of life in the nearby cities and towns that executives focus on when considering where to locate a large facility such as this.

In the May issue of Uptown, we look at the role of cities in economic development from several perspectives.
Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt gives a synopsis of South Carolina’s business recruitment efforts. His article not only reinforces why Volvo made a decision to come here, but it also points out how the state is actively pursuing entrepreneurs and high growth companies with the support of Commerce’s Office of Innovation.

The president of the SC Economic Developers Association also weighs in about the important role city officials play in local economic development strategy and implementation. Jeff Ruble points to SCEDA’s Handbook for Economic Development as a great resource for local leaders involved in recruiting and retaining local businesses.

The May Uptown also features several economic development resources for cities and towns. One article focuses on the Bailey Bill which offers tax abatements to rehabilitate historic buildings. Another looks at planning resources available through the SC chapter of the American Planning Association for underserved cities and towns. Also, the Appalachian Council of Governments has released an Entrepreneur Friendly Toolkit that Pickens and Simpsonville are already using in their local economic development efforts.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Celebrating the past, Embracing the future - 2015 Annual Meeting

If you could predict the future, what would your city look like? This question will be a focus of this year’s Annual Meeting July 16 – 19 at Hilton Head.

This week, municipal officials get their first glimpse of the wide variety of topics and issues on this year’s Annual Meeting agenda.
Tying to the meeting’s theme of “Celebrating the Past, Embracing the Future," many of the sessions will examine trends affecting cities’ long-range planning and put forth forecasts on topics as diverse as demographics, the sharing economy and technology. You might even see a drone hovering overhead.
The meeting’s keynote speaker is a well-known “futurist,” Rebecca Ryan, who will share some of the tools and techniques futurists use to imagine what communities could become under various conditions. Also, we’ll dive into how cities need to be prepared for future technology developments such as driverless cars, drones and services such as Uber.

Plus, to celebrate the Association’s rich history of serving the state’s cities and towns, the Annual Meeting will feature a look back at issues, challenges and successes through the decades.

But, here’s something funny about history…you just never know what will turn up when you start digging into it. When initially making plans to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Association’s first Annual Meeting, the staff discovered the Association has been around longer than we originally thought. And this year is actually the 76th Annual Meeting.

The first informal gathering of mayors happened in 1926, not 1939 as we originally thought. The first “official” Annual Meeting of municipal officials took place in February 1940, just weeks after the Association hired its first full-time executive director and moved into its first office building.
So this year, we celebrate the 76th Annual Meeting of an organization that has been serving cities for almost 90 years!

Regardless of her age (and we all know you never ask a lady her age), the Association has long served local officials giving them the tools and resources they need to be effective public servants. The Annual Meeting will celebrate this rich history and give local officials the tools to be prepared for what the future holds.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

History repeats itself…state transportation challenges

The General Assembly is debating a proposal to issue millions in state bonds for South Carolina roads. The plan is designed to solve the state's crumbling infrastructure problem. Municipal governments want a share of the money to meet their local road improvement needs.

Sounds familiar in 2015, right? 

No. This is taken from a 1930 report to the Municipal Association board about a legislative proposal to issue $65 million in bonds to pave more than 600 miles of crumbling roads in the state.

1930s Family Cars
To generate support, proponents took out full–page newspaper ads showing the pitiful condition of roads in the state. The paving program was designed to solve the state's infrastructure problem and provide needed Depression-era jobs.

Municipal governments wanted a share of the money to meet their local road improvement needs. Existing law allowed the state to pave roads only in towns with less than 2,500 population.

Details may have changed but our state’s crumbling infrastructure challenges haven’t.

This is one of the many interesting parallels of history revealed during the extensive research of the history of the Municipal Association. There’s lots more where this came from…especially related to annexation and taxation issues.

This summer, the Association is publishing a book that reflects on our history, impact and legacy since the early 1900s. It provides snapshots, milestones, stories and photographs that catalog the events, advancements, decisions, people and partnerships that shaped the evolution of both the Municipal Association of South Carolina and the state's cities and towns.

Stay tuned for more snapshots of history between now and mid-July when the book comes out. It’s really interesting to see how many times history repeats itself in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mayors learn from Lake City's successes

Lake City rolled out the red carpet last week for more than two dozen mayors who spent the day learning about the city’s economic development strategies and successes. 

Mayors from cities as diverse as Newberry to Marion and Santee to Sumter got an insider’s look at how Lake City approaching its strategy of moving the city from a rural agricultural economic base to a thriving arts hub for the region and the state.

Mayors meeting at the Bean Market
The mayors started the day with a briefing at the historic Bean Market that was once the site of the world’s largest truck auction of green beans. Today, it’s restored to serve as the home of the local farmer’s market along with dozens of events annually. Mayor Lovith Anderson told the group of mayors that rentals are close to capacity for the year at the Bean Market venue.

Ray McBride, executive director of the Community Museum Society, along with Mayor Anderson and Shawn Bell, city administrator, led the mayors on the walking tour.

Visiting the Ron McNair Center
Arts and culture are a real focus of the city’s economic development strategy, Mayor Anderson told his colleagues. From the Ron McNair Life History Center to the Jones-Carter Art Gallery, the city is focused on making arts and culture its hallmark of economic growth.
Artfields art in the Inn at
the Crossroad courtyard

Throughout the walking tour of downtown, the mayors got to see a number of the pieces of art that will be in residence during the upcoming Artfields Festival April 24 – May 7. The festival attracts thousands of visitors from around the state, nation and world over its nine-day run. This year, the festival will offer $100,000 in prizes to artists from across the Southeast.

Inn at the Crossroads lobby
A highlight of the mayors’ walking tour of Lake City’s downtown was a visit to the recently opened boutique hotel, Inn at the Crossroads. Santee Mayor Donnie Hilliard told his colleagues about a recent retreat of his city council that was held at the Inn. During their two-day stay in Lake City, the Santee council learned about Lake City’s successful parks and recreation department and its efforts to bring more tourism to the city. What a great way for the mayors to learn from each other!

A panel of local leaders briefed the mayors at lunch about the strong arts and business community support that is making this new economic development strategy work. Jim Fields, executive director of the Lake City Partnership Council, noted that while the city does have a strong financial benefactor in local resident Darla Moore, the Council’s goal is to create economic development strategies that can replicated in small towns all over the state.

The day wrapped up with a tour of Moore Farm’s Botanical Gardens on the outskirts of town. This horticultural gem spans 50 acres combining cutting edge horticultural practices and rural gardening traditions. The Garden hosts local events and tours by appointment.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Cities Mean Business magazine spotlights economic development in SC cities and towns

The latest issue of the Association’s Cities Mean Business magazine is out and is in the hands of the 15,000+ subscribers of SC Biz magazine.

Winter 2015
Twice a year, the Association partners with SC Biz to publish Cities Mean Business as a way to showcase some of the many ways SC cities and towns contribute to the state’s economic success.

In this issue, read (p. 6) about how boutique hotels in Florence, Anderson and Beaufort are contributing to the increasingly lively activity in these downtowns. And the best part is…all three hotels are owned by local entrepreneurs.

Food may not be the first thing you think of when talking about community redevelopment, but in Spartanburg, Easley and Greenville, local leaders understand that easy access to healthy food is critical to underserved neighborhoods. Read about (p. 9) how these cities are supporting collaborations that include farmers markets, a vegetable truck that mirrors the concept of an ice cream truck and job training opportunities.

Local chamber executives talk in this issue (p. 10) about the importance of the partnerships between their city and local businesses. Chamber execs from Fountain Inn, Myrtle Beach and Clinton discuss the mutually beneficial relationships that help these cities solve problems collectively.

In many cities, blighted and environmentally contaminated property can sit vacant for many years causing public health concerns and eyesores. Learn about how Edisto Beach, Rock Hill and Greenwood have used brownfields loans from the EPA and DHEC to transform these derelict properties into vibrant redevelopments.

Finally, hear from (p. 13) the president of the SC Economic Developers Association, Jeff Ruble, who discusses the important benefits of a collaborative economic development strategy for the state to support a diverse business landscape.