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Business: Chamber president takes job as county’s top salesman

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Brian Tucker was hired Tuesday as Georgetown County’s new economic development director. And Wednesday he was already at work from his office in the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce, where he has been president since 2012.

“I’ll be wearing both hats for probably the next three months,” Tucker said.

The county has been without an economic development director since August when Wayne Gregory left to take a similar position with the city of Columbia. Earlier this year, the county abolished its Economic Development Commission and assigned its duties to the nonprofit Alliance for Economic Development. As chamber president, Tucker serves on the alliance board.

Both the chamber and the alliance presented plans to the county for running its economic development operations, Tucker said. “I was very happy with the due diligence they were doing to see they were doing the right thing,” he said.

When Tucker was hired as chamber president, economic development was one of three areas where the board asked him to focus, he said. He feels that he has succeeded in the other two areas, bringing financial stability to the chamber and improving member relations.

Taking the economic development job seemed like a logical step, he said.

“I think we can move the needle,” Tucker said.

“Brian brings a new perspective to the position,” Sel Hemingway, the county administrator, said in a statement announcing the hiring. “He recognizes the opportunities that exist in developing knowledge-based and entrepreneurial jobs.”

Hemingway once served as chairman of the Economic Development Commission.

Bill Crowther, executive director of the alliance, said Tucker is a good choice. “With the economy somewhat on the rebound and with successes in Horry County, I think it’s a good time,” he said.

Crowther said the alliance had “limited interaction” with Gregory. “Wayne never brought us a prospect,” he said.

He envisions a closer relationship with Tucker, with alliance members and the development office sharing information on new development prospects.

“We’re very comfortable with Brian being in that position,” he said.

Tucker plans to work with the alliance, the chamber and other organizations. “One of my goals is to have a singular economic development strategy,” he said. “A single, comprehensive strategy so we’re all pulling in the same direction.”

He worked in mortgage lending before becoming president of the North Augusta Chamber. Tucker said he draws his job description on something he was told in Aiken County: “I’m the outside sales department,” Tucker said. “A large part of my job will be to promote Georgetown County to the rest of the world.”

The evidence of Georgetown County’s potential is in the strength of its existing industries, Tucker said. “Every time you turn around Safe-Rack has a new project, Agru-America has a new project,” he said.

The effect of the Boeing aircraft factory in North Charleston is yet to be felt, but Tucker believes it will be. “Look at the ripple created by BWM in Greenville,” he said. “That’s a huge ripple.”

“Economic development is about the creation of wealth. You create it by giving people good jobs,” he said. “It’s just a matter of perseverance, and maybe some Pollyanna thoughts.”

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