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County sees green in green industry

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Not much has been said about a plan to turn the Hammock Coast into the Green Coast in the year since the idea was introduced at an economic development forum.

But that’s not a sign that the effort has stalled, said Tim Tilley, chairman of the Alliance for Economic Development for Georgetown County.

“With some of the transition that has happened within the alliance from last year to this year, it hasn’t really been finalized at this time, but it is progressing,” he said. “We’re looking at setting up a marketing plan and marketing strategy, and determining businesses that would fit within the concept of green industries.”

It is uncertain when that work might be complete. First, the alliance has some internal organization it needs to wrap up. It’s setting up subcommittees that will have “very refined roles, so we can be more effective in enhancing economic development in the area,” Tilley said. “That’s part of the structural changes we’ve been going through.”

One of those subcommittees will be in charge of the Green Coast effort.

“We don’t even know what we’ll call that subcommittee yet,” Tilley said. “It’s a work in progress.”

But he does know that Larry Mercado, an executive at Mercom and the alliance board member who introduced the concept for the Green Coast last March, will chair the subcommittee.

Mercado couldn’t be reached for comment, but he laid out the idea at last year’s forum as one geared toward turning the county into a hub for environmentally friendly businesses by actively courting green companies and making the area an appealing place for them to locate facilities.

Alliance board members envision something similar to California’s Silicon Valley.

“Thirty years ago it was just a valley next to San Francisco,” Mercado said. Then, through a collaborative effort to market the area to high-tech businesses, it became what it is today — a high-tech hub that is home to companies including Apple, Intel, Yahoo!, Google, eBay, Symnatec and Cisco Systems.

“That’s the potential we have here,” he said.

The area’s natural beauty, strong manufacturing base and quality of life will work in its favor as it works to lure green businesses, Tilley said. Those are among the county’s biggest selling points no matter what kind of businesses it’s trying to attract.

The county already has a good start on going green, with a number of environmentally friendly businesses that have set up shop in recent years. Those include American Gypsum, Renewed World Energies, Carolina-Pacific and Tilley’s own business, EnviroSep.

And even though the Green Coast effort hasn’t launched yet, it looks promising that more businesses will soon be joining the ranks.

“We’re working hard to promote the county to companies that are environmentally friendly and several are looking our way,” said Wayne Gregory, the county’s director of economic development. “We hope to have some big announcements soon.”

He told Georgetown County Council earlier this month about one company that is considering locating in the county that would create 500 jobs and invest more than $200 million within five years. Its name hasn’t been released yet, as negotiations are ongoing, but Gregory said it is an agricultural company that is both high-tech and environmentally friendly.

Environmentally friendly businesses are “a very good fit for this area,” he said, and the county is selective about the kind of industry it seeks out.

“We don’t pursue anything that would harm the environment,” Gregory said.

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