With the holiday season already ramping up, get ready to hear a lot about the value of consumers buying locally, particularly with lots of foreign-manufactured goods stuck on container ships off the California coast.
But there’s another important kind of “local” too — investing locally to grow jobs, boost economic stability and keep dollars circulating in the Lowcountry, instead of flowing into corporate coffers of businesses that put profits about our region’s interests.
So we offer a big tip of the hat to Charleston billionaire and philanthropist Ben Navarro for buying the iconic Charleston Place hotel and keeping it local. Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but the cost is thought to approach $500 million. Over the next 18 months, Navarro’s Beemok Hospitality Group says it will work to revitalize the hotel complex, which includes conference areas, retail space and restaurants.
“We intend to deploy significant investments at the property, while also honoring its unique heritage and overall identity that has solidified Charleston Place as one of the most iconic hotels in the Southeast,” Navarro said in a press release.
Navarro is making a huge investment in the future of downtown Charleston, just as he has by purchasing a tennis complex on Daniel Island and by underwriting hundreds of thousands of dollars of college scholarships for Charleston County High School graduates.
All of this investment illustrates Navarro’s faith that the local economy will remain strong. It also should send a clear signal to other investors, large and small, to step up and make more local investments. Don’t send your investments and charitable dollars out of the area. Rather, make our community stronger by investing in home-grown for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations.
There are plenty of local leaders who are putting their money here where it counts. Celeste and Charles Patrick have fueled several restaurants and nonprofits that make a difference. Attorney Ed Bell, an owner of the City Paper, is the driving force behind the newly invigorated Charleston School of Law.
Other leaders seed good works. Billionaire Anita Zucker is a critical supporter behind educational improvement. Former Benefitfocus co-founder and CEO Shawn Jenkins gave millions to MUSC to create a state-of-the-art children’s hospital. Local philanthropists like Mason Holland, Nella Barkley, Carol Fishman, John Rivers, David Savard and Roger Jones are vital stimulators behind arts and education initiatives.
Herbert Drayton III, current chairman of the Coastal Community Foundation, says there are broad opportunities for local investors with cash to make a difference in the Lowcountry. “There’s a lot of cash in this community, and I believe if these folks are really intent on investing in this community, there are opportunities to invest in,” he told the City Paper. Examples: Agriculture, including the nascent hemp industry; renewable energy, including innovative battery storage solutions; and technology, such as gaming innovations.
Through the years, Charleston has accumulated a lot of charitably minded people. Let’s hope they’ll be inspired by Navarro to use their business skills and capital to step up and invest more in local businesses so we can keep more of our local money local. And as they boost local commitments, they should make sure these companies hire diverse local vendors as partners. That way, more people can succeed.