Standing Positions of Support
The Beaufort Regional Chamber is committed to developing a business-friendly environment where our existing and new businesses want to invest.
Strengthening our business climate requires advocacy at the local, state and federal levels. Advocacy activities include grassroots activities, monitoring local government meetings, the annual legislative reception, and visits to Columbia. In addition, the Chamber works closely with our U.S. delegation with a focus on protecting and growing our military installations.
The Beaufort Regional Chamber uses four guiding principles in considering positions on issues and are adopted through a majority vote by our Board of Directors.
- Maintain and grow opportunities for Beaufort County businesses
- Reduce the cost of doing business
- Manage growth and support infrastructure improvements so that the marketability of the area is not threatened
- Increase the qualified workforce
Business License Reform
Every for profit business operating in Beaufort County, including all four municipalities, is required to have a valid business license and pay an annual fee based on a percentage of the organization’s annual gross income and calculated on a specified classification scale.
The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce has longstanding support for simplifying the process for all business. The standardization of the business licensing process will make it easier for a business to operate in different cities, towns and counties.
The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce also supports a bill that would establish one expiration date for a business license and the ability for a firm to file online.
Consideration should be given to standardizing the rate and classifications, the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce encourages the adoption of the NAICS code for business classification. The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce recognizes the need for compromise in Columbia for pro-business changes to the licensing reform.
Outlying or Auxiliary Landing Field
For many years, the Beaufort Regional Chamber has supported an outlying or auxiliary landing field to improve the viability of MCAS Beaufort. MCAS Beaufort is ideally located and constructed to support Marine aviation training.
The facilities of the Air Station training complex: two runways, the longest over 12,000 feet long; their air-to-ground bombing range at Townsend, Georgia; and the 50,000+square miles of overwater air combat training ranges, are the right size and in the right locations for effective and efficient training. However, there is a piece missing that constrains training: an outlying or auxiliary landing field.
An auxiliary landing field will provide the training flexibility needed to maintain an efficient rate in order to meet the needs of our national defense. The recommended next steps are to conduct a site study and to identify funds for the purchase of land. The Chamber encourages and supports the County to implement a Referendum that includes a line item to help fund an Outlying or Auxiliary Landing Field.
Hunting Island Renourishment
The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce supports the request for beach renourishment and restoration for Hunting Island’s Beach & State Park. The Chamber encourages the swift adoption of this request, with hopes that work can begin as soon as possible.
The Beaufort economy is powered by the $1.3 billion tourism industry. Visitors come to Beaufort for access to the beach and the water. Without Hunting Island, there is no public beach access — and this is the #1 reason that tourists visit our destination. Hunting Island is the #1 attraction in Northern Beaufort County and has been ranked by Trip Advisor as a Top Ten Beach in the entire United States. The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce encourages the State of South Carolina to do whatever is necessary to renourish and protect this amazing natural resource that we have in our backyard.
Culinary Institute of the South at the Technical College of the Lowcountry
The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors supported Beaufort County Council’s decision to fund the Culinary Institute of the South at the Technical College of the Lowcountry.
The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce believes that the Culinary Institute of the South at TCL will add to the tourist experience, and its students will keep the local dining scene vibrant. A trained culinary workforce will support the $1.3 Billion dollar economic impact that our travel & tourism industry drives in Beaufort County.
Joint Land Use
Jasper Ocean Terminal Joint Venture
The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce support The Jasper Ocean Terminal Joint Venture, a body comprised of the Georgia Ports Authority and the South Carolina Ports Authority and wants the Jasper Ocean Terminal expeditiously completed.
On March 12, 2007, the Governors of Georgia and South Carolina signed a Term Sheet that identified the construction of a new marine container terminal in Jasper County, SC, and the expansion of existing terminals in GA as the most practical means of increasing the cargo handling capacity of both states.
The Georgia Ports Authority and South Carolina Ports Authority purchased the 1,518-acre project site in June 2008 and executed a Joint Venture Agreement on November 15, 2015, that describes the proposed Jasper Ocean Terminal (JOT) as well as transportation infrastructure requirements. The project site is presently developed to maintain the existing Savannah Harbor Federal Navigation Project.
However, additional properties are required to provide road and rail access to the project site from US Highway 17 and existing CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern railroad corridors. In addition, navigation improvements (e.g., an access channel and a turning basin) will be required to support vessel operations, and a new railroad bridge across the Savannah River will be required to provide access to existing railroad bridge across the Savannah River will be required to provide access to existing railroad corridors in GA.
Increased Funding for Higher Education
The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce strongly supports increased funding for higher education including technical colleges. We believe that working to align vocational training between our County’s public high schools and the Technical College of the Lowcountry will be beneficial for our industry as well as our citizens.
Modifying the Allocation Formula for Public Education Act
The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce supports modifying the allocation formula for public education funding using criteria other than a school system’s ability to raise revenue through property tax to a system where all students receive equitable funding. After residential property tax reform (Act 388) passed the South Carolina General Assembly in 2006, a substantial tax was shifted to the business community for funding state schools, ultimately making South Carolina less competitive in recruiting and retaining new businesses. Because the General Assembly is not allowing the 2009-established Tax Realignment Commission to evaluate Act 388, the South Carolina Chamber is calling for the repeal of Act 388.
We must improve the state’s tax system to remain competitive in business and job creation. There are two specific pieces of our current tax system where the Chamber sees need for reform. The first is business property taxes. Act 388 has pushed the property tax burden for school operations and maintenance disproportionally to businesses, forcing school districts to use businesses as their primary source of revenue. This unfair burden has negatively impacted both businesses and school districts and needs to be reformed. The Chamber of Commerce supports legislation to address the consequences of Act 388, which includes:
- Reducing the manufacturing property tax rate from 10%
- Reduction of non-owner occupied property tax burden
- Protecting fee-in-lieu agreements
Charleston Port Deepening
The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce supports the 52-feet harbor deepening project. This project is absolutely essential to South Carolina’s economic future. Deepening South Carolina’s harbor to 52 feet is a game changer for jobs and economic growth for generations to come.
The organization expressses confidence in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Draft Integrated Feasibility Report and Environment Impact Statement, which finds the project can be accomplished in an environmentally-responsible manner. Simply put, this project must go forward for the economic well-being of our state for generations to come.
Civic Master Plan
The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce supports the City of Beaufort’s Civic Master Plan as a visionary and living document. The Chamber recognizes that the Civic Master Plan is the result of extensive efforts, including an intensive public input process.
The Chamber acknowledges that the plan establishes standards for each parcel of the City of Beaufort and we encourage the City to use the Civic Master Plan as a visionary tool verses a regulatory tool. We realize the intent of the plan is to show growth and progress.
The Chamber encourages the highest and best use of all City property. At the Chamber, we work every day to create the preferred community to invest, prosper and enjoy. It is the Chamber’s desire that this will set Beaufort apart from other communities, and attracting residents and companies seeking a more distinctive place to live and work.
The Civic Master Plan lays the groundwork for a prosperous and resilient city for another 300 years to come.
Tourism Industry of Beaufort County
The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce strongly supports the advancement and growth of the $1.3 billion tourism industry that Beaufort County enjoys. The Chamber supports dedicated funding for tourism destination marketing, as well as the development of heritage and cultural tourism attractions in Beaufort County.
The benefits of tourism are undeniable. More than one billion dollars in travel-related annual spending is injected into the local economy, which translates into lower property taxes for all residents of Beaufort County.
Tourism not only brings revenue to our county, but it also provides the foundation for our enviable quality of life, creates jobs, improves medical and educational resources and even convinces a fair share of visitors to become full-time residents, relocate their business to the area, or invest in second homes.
All of these real estate scenarios expand our tax base even further. Beaufort County property tax millage rates are among the lowest in the state, ranked #3 out of 46 counties. These low rates are a direct result of the economic impact of tourism.
Tourism also has a significant indirect impact on the community. Tourism industry employees use their wages to pay for housing, food, clothing, health care, entertainment, and lifestyle products and services, which means those original tourism dollars are doing double duty.
While visitors add to community infrastructure and service requirements, tourism impact fees paid by visitors are used to support and maintain many of the resources that both residents and visitors enjoy. Beaufort County boasts endless miles of beaches and waterways, over 40 parks and playgrounds, 35 public boat landings, all paid for in large part by tourism revenue. Without this revenue, the majority of the financial burden would fall upon residents, which could result in reduced and lower quality resources and services.
The benefits are clear. By growing tourism and increasing visitors in Beaufort County we will be able to continue to enjoy the many resources and benefits of our area.
Military Economic Impact
The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce strongly supports the military and recognizes the installations’ presence as Northern Beaufort County’s primary economic driver.
Beaufort County is proud to have three installations: MCRD Parris Island, MCAS Beaufort and Naval Hospital Beaufort. These installations combined directly employ more than 19,240 military and civilian personnel. According to an economic impact study completed in January 2017 by the South Carolina Department of Commerce, the combined direct economic impact for military and civilians for the three installations is more than $993.8
million for the area with a total impact of more than $2.2 billion on the local economy.
Specifically, the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce supports:
- Expanding the Tri-Command’s $2.4 billion economic impact by lobbying to maintain and grow our military installations and protect them from encroachment.
- Working closely with local, state and federal leaders to retain jobs associated with the region’s military installations, and work to support military families and improve their quality of life.
- Advocating for the SC General Assembly will offer a full exemption of state taxes on military retirement income.
Issue: In 2003, Beaufort City Council appointed an ad hoc Waterway Commission charged with study of waterway tourism and needs. Among the commission’s topics of study, a primary component was the need for additional day dock facilities. The commission reviewed various related issues and presented to council in April 2004, with a firm recommendation made supporting the need for additional day dock facilities with the preferred location being along the seawall fronting Waterfront Park. Council has not funded the project.
On June 3, 2008, Beaufort City Council reactivated the Waterway Commission charging it with pursuing the topic of the day dock and determining the preferred location.
Transient boaters dine in city restaurants and shop in city stores, contributing to the local economy in a meaningful way. Protection and enhancement of the city’s waterfront and additional docking facilities for boaters are important in providing a convenient and welcoming atmosphere for visitors.
Positions/Recommendations: The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce supports the Beaufort City Council constructing an expanded day dock facility.
In May 2018, the Beaufort Day Dock opened to the public!
On Wednesday, June 17, 2015 an act of pure hatred tore the heart of South Carolina apart and changed the lives of many. Nine innocent people lost their lives and our community and our state as a whole will never be the same. This unimaginable tragedy was intended to create a disastrous divide amongst South Carolinians, yet our resilient community came together to heal in a way our state has never seen before. The Confederate flag is a part of South Carolina’s undeniable history and more appropriately belongs memorialized in a museum. Only a united South Carolina can rebuild after this insurmountable heartbreak.
The Beaufort Chamber of Commerce advocates for the removal of the Confederate flag from the State House grounds and joins local and state leadership in calling for the General Assembly to find a swift solution to do so. The Beaufort Regional Chamber further believes that the flags of the state of South Carolina and the United States of America, represent the sovereignty under which the state of South Carolina exists, and should be the only flags displayed at the State House. The Beaufort Regional Chamber believes that the removal of the flag represents the unification and collaboration of our region’s citizens, businesses and leaders to act for the greater good of all South Carolinians.
The Beaufort Regional business community calls upon the General Assembly to expeditiously deal with this issue. The Beaufort Regional Chamber mourns for those affected by the tragedy in Charleston, and we commend South Carolinians for responding with grace and unity. Beaufort, Port Royal and the Sea Islands of South Carolina are a great place to live, work and do business. This effort will only make it better.
The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors supported the tax incentives outlined in the Bailey Bill. This enabling piece of legislation was adopted by the SC state legislature many years ago and offers special property tax assessments for rehabilitated historic structures. This special assessment freezes taxes at the pre-rehabilitated rate for a given amount of time, offering an incentive for a property owner to invest in their house while keeping their tax rate known. The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors supported the tax incentives outlined in the Bailey Bill. This enabling piece of legislation was adopted by the SC state legislature many years ago and offers special property tax assessments for rehabilitated historic structures. This special assessment freezes taxes at the pre-rehabilitated rate for a given amount of time, offering an incentive for a property owner to invest in their house while keeping their tax rate known.