This week marks the latest installment in City Paper‘s ongoing series “After Riley” presented in conjunction with Lowcountry Local First, Preservation Society of Charleston, S.C. Community Loan Fund, Coastal Conservation League, and IfYouWereMayor.com. In it, candidates have been asked to answer a series of questions regarding culture, commerce, and livability. Candidates have responded with no knowledge of any other participant’s answers.
The series will culminate on Sept. 30 with a forum put on by these organizations. The forum is free and open to the public. Those interested in attending can RSVP at YourCharleston.org.
Describe your approach to economic development as it relates to both large and small business, as well as your plan to support businesses located here versus recruitment.
I have reputation of thinking big, working with others, and getting things done. I would bring this approach to economic development, working with the business community and regional leaders to support our region’s economy. The fact is we have to do two things at once: 1) Support large and small businesses here today and 2) Recruit new businesses to provide good paying jobs to Charleston’s citizens. One of the best ways for us to support existing businesses is to maintain and improve infrastructure — in particular, transportation. I have presented a comprehensive transportation plan; you can find it atGinnyforMayor.com. For some businesses, the answer is more connectivity with neighborhoods. For others, it’s new and improved roads and modern public transit options. We will do both. My emphasis for economic development will be to help grow the knowledge-based economy. And the best way to do that is to build what author, Richard Florida, calls the “people climate” that attracts diverse human talents that drive true prosperity. The good news is that Charleston is already a talent magnet because we are such a beautiful, unique, and interesting city. But we need to build on this success. Including career prep and training programs so our residents have the skills necessary to seize the good jobs here today and coming tomorrow. To do this, we need a mayor who can think big and get things done.
William Dudley Gregorie
We must continue to grow our economy, especially in the technology sector so that we can truly become Silicon Harbor. We have already seen the success of our city’s Flagship Technology Incubator yielding tech companies such as People Matter, and Boomtown yielding jobs with salaries way above the average. As councilman I have supported this effort to also include its expansion and the construction of Flagship 3 on the Morrison Drive corridor. As mayor I will continue this economic development effort to diversify business opportunities. In addition I will continue to implement the economic development recommendations outlined in the city’s Century V Plan which recommends working to promote and improve local and regional infrastructure, attract all types businesses through targeted incentives, provide business services and allocate resources to support and promote local business development, implement targeted job/work centers, promote capacity building for minority- and women-owned businesses in the city, and focus city resources and public-financed programs on revenue generators and economic development engines. One Charleston, A City That Works for Everyone.
My approach to economic development hinges on two key questions: How is the community doing and what does it need, and from that, my job, as the leader, is to fill in the gaps through education, consensus building, and, in some cases, immediate action. Right now I see substantial gaps in the participation of “edge” and communities in Charleston’s prosperity. People are watching the area’s economy boom, but not participating and that challenges me. Is it because they don’t know how or is it because the doors are closed or maybe it’s some combination of the two. I believe with all my heart that our area is big enough for anyone to get rich and create wealth if they are willing to work hard. If edge communities get healthy economically, then crime tends to decrease overall and the benefits of that need no further explanation. Della Rucker, Jim Kennet and Mark Barbash have done great work in this area.
During my time fighting for Charleston in the legislature, I’ve been privileged to be involved in securing the funds needed to deepen Charleston Harbor and ensure the competitiveness of our port and the recruitment and relocation of Boeing, Mercedes Benz, and Volvo. These businesses produce thousands of jobs and generate millions in tax revenue that allow us to invest in better roads and schools. As mayor, I will eliminate red tape without reducing standards and continue to promote a low-tax business environment, as I always have, to help Charleston’s small businesses compete and succeed. I will fight for a more competitive business environment — especially for modern high-tech companies — to continue to see new businesses locate in our city. At the same time, we must do more to protect the businesses that are already here by streamlining city services and the permitting process to make it easier for existing businesses to prosper and create jobs. In addition, providing the leadership needed to make sure investments are made in education, our port, job training, transportation, and other infrastructure needs will create an overall thriving atmosphere that benefits both large and small businesses.
In Charleston today, we need a two-prong approach to economic development. First, we have to ensure that future growth is consistent with maintaining and improving our citizens’ quality of life. And, at the same time, we also need to encourage projects that will revitalize our under-performing areas, creating real and meaningful opportunity for all our citizens. For example, certain retail areas in West Ashley are in need of the kind of revitalization work we did along Upper King Street when I served as director of economic development under Mayor Joe Riley. Conversely, parts of the historic district downtown are already quite densely developed, and our primary challenge there is to protect and preserve the qualities that make those areas so attractive in the first place. In terms of recruitment, I’ll focus on the kind of knowledge-based and value-added businesses that pay a good wage without creating significant negative consequences for our city or environment. With regard to existing businesses, I will institute a rigorous performance audit in my first year, which will give us the hard data we need to ensure that we’re providing our businesses with the professional support and services they need and deserve.
My approach to economic development is to first understand the current regulatory system and where there may be problems. Given that not all development is good development, it would be important to me that our regulatory processes reflect the city’s long-term economic development vision to safeguard against detrimental projects. I will work to find balance between economic development and quality of life. It is important that we remove unnecessary delays and hurdles for businesses at the city, while still preserving the integrity of the community’s economic development vision and goals. Small businesses are the lifeblood of communities across the United States. However, small businesses face a host of barriers to success, and many fail within the first year. Local leaders are in a unique position to help support and develop small businesses. My administration will work to provide tools and resources such as encouraging local small businesses to bid for city contracts, support micro-lending, create incubator spaces, and establish a small business resource center to empower business owners and help foster a strong small business community.
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