HILTON HEAD ISLAND — South Carolina business leader Darla Moore told a southern Beaufort County audience Wednesday that financial incentives typically reserved for manufacturing should be available to other businesses, including tourism.
“We need to do a better job in targeting our incentives,” Moore said at the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce State of the Region Breakfast. “And when you target these incentives, look at the clusters that are driving our economy and support them equally. This is not magic. This shouldn’t be hard.”
Incentives should be used “judiciously and fairly,” she added, and economic development measures that turn out to be ineffective should be scrapped.
Moore, vice president of investment firm Rainwater Inc., also urged politicians and business leaders to look beyond lower taxes to spur economic development.
“There have to be improvements in our key economic foundations beyond our tax breaks,” she said. “There must be investments in our infrastructure, workforce training and marketing.”
A native of Lake City, Moore cited her hometown as an example of the power of tourism. After years of seeing its agricultural economy decline, Lake City set its sights on refurbishing an old warehouse once used for storing green beans and using it instead for community events and festivals. The town asked the legislature for about $900,000 for the $3 million project, but was turned down -- even ridiculed by some in Columbia, Moore said.
The “bean market” project ultimately received a federal loan, and now the building is the venue for various events that draw tourists to Lake City – helping to rejuvenate its downtown and create jobs, Moore said.
“Economic development is not just for manufacturing,” she said. “There are communities all over the state that have not been impacted by the recruitment of large industries,” including many in the Lowcountry.
Although tourism is one of the state’s key industries, she said it could be more robust. For instance, she said, tourists spend about $100 less per day in South Carolina than in other states.
David Tigges, head of the Lowcountry Economic Alliance board of directors, agreed that business incentives should be available for the tourism industry.
“I think that makes a lot of sense,” he said.