When we started Lowcountry Local First 10 years ago, we did so as a Buy Local Movement geared toward consumers. We engaged our citizens on the impact of their dollar when spent with a local-independent business, and how those businesses are providing individualized service, creating less impact on our environment, increasing our tax base, creating that economic multiplier and keeping us from becoming “Anywhere, USA.”

And while that important education work will never cease, just like our city has evolved, so have we in order to best address the needs of you, our members. This past year alone commercial real estate prices have gone up 26%, so we started Local Works to provide an affordable workspace for a diverse group of local businesses where those businesses have the ability to collaborate with peers, exchange ideas and thrive. This past year we also started our Commercial Space Advisory Team to help you navigate the process of starting or expanding your business and what that looks like in terms of financing, location, design and permitting.

And as we know agriculture is one of our states largest economic drivers but our farmers are aging out, so we developed the Growing New Farmers Program where since 2010 we have educated 147 farmers and food system leaders and launched 4 farm businesses from Dirt Works incubator farm. And because we don’t want to have business that are just best IN the world but best FOR the world, we launched the Good Business Summit – the only conference of it’s kind that is geared specifically to the needs of local business owners and helps them to do well and good.

I’ll admit, it’s messy. This kind of economic development work means we’ve thrown a lot of spaghetti on the wall and not all of it has stuck, but running a business is also messy. When you are addressing the needs of businesses ranging from coffee roasters to accountants, manufacturers to farmers, and everything in between — it’s not one size fits all. You, too, are dealing with our regions biggest challenges, affordable housing for employees, transportation and workforce development, but add to that rising real estate costs, access to capital and difficulties navigating the permitting process – and it starts to feel like all odds are against them.

What we are doing? We are advocating for overlay districts, fast tracking local businesses through permitting, meeting with realtors to try and identify affordable space and matching them with our members.

Our communities have spent millions of public and private dollars preserving place. Now isn’t it time to start thinking about the preservation of those friends and good neighbors, the people inside those places?

In order to do that our movement and mindset has to shift from “me” to “we”. You – yes you, reading this post – are the leaders in this movement and collectively you have great power. Now is the time we need you to shift more of your dollars to other local businesses building a sustainable economy. Now is the time to hold our elective officials accountable for creating policies and changes that level the playing field for the local business community. Now is the time to engage your friends and neighbors in business to join our movement. Now is the time to make sure we have an organization that reflects the diversity of the region in which we live.

Our goal during our 10th year is to show our gratitude for all of you who have made this movement a force and to work with you to make sure that our team knows what we need to know in order to build an economy that is anchored in local ownership; in order to level the playing field for all local-independent businesses and create opportunities for all to thrive.

Thank YOU for the past decade spent loving the Lowcountry. And thank you, in advance, for working with us this year as we pause to listen, engage and ensure that our efforts moving forward are as purposeful and impactful as ever.

Jamee Haley
Executive Director at Lowcountry Local First
Executive Director at Lowcountry Local First