The following is reposted from the Charleston Regional Business Journal (Nov. 16 – Nov. 29; Volume 21, No. 24):
Dear Mayor of Charleston,

We applaud you for taking on the challenge of filling the shoes of one of America’s most beloved Mayors. We know this is a daunting task and only someone with a true passion for Charleston and her people will be able to lead us through the next four years. We are excited to see what the future holds now that the citizens of Charleston are more engaged than ever in her future. We hope that your vision for the city is aligned with the local, independent businesses that are invested in creating the great quality of life we heard about on the campaign trail. We have held true to our mission to be a strong advocate for those businesses that are headquartered right here, in this place we have all decided to invest in by starting businesses, buying homes and raising our children. We hope that the agenda you develop with your staff is one that invests in these businesses in the way that they have invested in our city.

As you take on your new role as mayor we will be interested to see what the strategy for economic development will entail and how the recommendations from the Century V Comprehensive Plan will be implemented. The economic development recommendations from the Century V Plan include; providing business services and allocating resources to supporting and promoting small and local business development; implement targeted job/work centers; and continue to promote and grow the capacity of minority and women owned businesses in the city. Here are some ways we believe that these goals can be met.

  • Providing business services and allocating resources to supporting and promoting small and local business development.

– Develop a Fast Track program that expedites the permitting process for local businesses.

– Engage with Charleston County and the CACVB to have comprehensive Way Finding so that the unique businesses that reside on side streets are discovered by locals and visitors alike.

– Revise the current Local Preference Ordinance (developed in partnership with Lowcountry Local First) to 1) include a definition of “local” that applies only to those actually headquartered here; 2) promote the opportunity to the business community; and 3) track and publicly report the economic impact of shifting city dollars to local businesses. For example Phoenix, AZ developed a database of local businesses and were able to track an increase in contracts to local businesses from $50,000 in 2011 to $2,238,770 in 2013.

– Implement policies to preserve and create affordable commercial space. West Ashley is poised for growth and with effective marketing, placemaking and property matching this could be the destination for local business owners. Local business district overlays in select areas would prevent the homogenizing of neighborhoods and prevent out of state prospectors from buying up available property. Property owned by the city could be identified and used to provide economic opportunities through entrepreneurship for minority owned and local business owners.

  • Implement targeted job/work centers.

– Continue to support the existing facilities and organizations that are providing these services like Trident Tech, the Flagship, Harbor Entrepreneur Center, Center for Women, the Catalyst Center and Lowcountry Local First’s Local Works coworking facility and Dirt Works Incubator Farm. Additionally, we should be looking to engage minority business owners in these existing programs.

  • Grow the capacity of minority- and women-owned businesses in the city.

– Employ community-based ownership tactics. For example, Community Land Trusts, a model typically used for affordable housing could be used for affordable commercial space. New York City and Minneapolis have both started Real Estate Investment Cooperatives to enable the community to decide the type of businesses that would best serve them as well as cap the rent.

– Encourage our anchor institutions (hospitals, colleges, and the Port) to shift their enormous spending power to support local minority- and woman-owned businesses. Through policy changes, institutions in other cities have greatly increased the number of contracts going to minority- and woman-owned businesses for a variety of businesses, like laundry service or landscaping, allowing local businesses to thrive, and more money to stay rooted in our communities.

We are fortunate to live in a world-class city, but we wouldn’t be a world-class city without the unwavering vision of Mayor Riley. And while our status across the country as a great place to visit cannot be questioned, we wonder what your big vision is for making this a great place to live. We don’t have all the answers but we do know that it is going to take innovative ideas to address these quality of life issues we face and develop a plan that provides opportunities for prosperity for all people.

Congratulations on earning the vote of the people of Charleston. The work that you do, the policies you implement and the leadership you provide will impact the lives of all of us.

Jamee Haley
Executive Director,
Lowcountry Local First

Jamee Haley
Executive Director at Lowcountry Local First