donkirkmanExecutive director of the Hilton Head Island Economic Development Corporation shares his plans

If it takes big bucks to generate big business, then Hilton Head is on the right track. Back in June, Hilton Head Town Council approved a hefty $450,000 budget for the Hilton Head Island Economic Development Corp.’s 2014-2015 fiscal year. A chunk of that went to hiring its new executive director, Don Kirkman, who started in August. We caught up with Kirkman to give us a glimpse of his plans for this coming year, and the potential he sees for economic growth on the island.

When Janet Yellen, the chair of the Federal Reserve, speaks, markets listen and market participants try to gauge how our economy will be impacted.

Yellen can instigate economic behavior both nationally and right here in Bluffton and on Hilton Head Island, so let’s examine her remarks at the Aug. 22 fed meetings in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

The Fed, and specifically the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), takes seriously the dual mandate given to them by Congress.

Charles-FrasermeatThe Lowcountry has come to symbolize relaxed luxury to the rest of the country, but 55 years ago, Hilton Head Island was an insignificant, nearly impossible-to-reach outpost known mostly for war history many wanted to forget.

The shift in perception has come from a half-century-long series of carefully crafted marketing strategies from the moment Charles Fraser set forth to make Hilton Head Island a destination for tourists and retirees.

“It has been nothing but a marketing story from day one,” said island marketing guru Tom Gardo, one of many who worked with Fraser to promote what was then Sea Pines Plantation to the world.

Working in a sweltering, fast-paced Hilton Head restaurant kitchen, 13 hours a day, six days a week, isn’t what most of us would consider a dream job. The demands are grueling and the pay is nominal.

But for Juan, the work is steady and it allows him to support his growing family here, as well as his parents and siblings back home.


Juan, an immigrant from Mexico, settled in the Lowcountry 10 years ago. He’s quiet, smart and well-mannered. Despite his lack of free time, he met and married a beautiful girl. They started a family and moved to Jasper County, where rent is more affordable on a minimum-wage salary, even though Juan’s commute to Hilton Head takes longer.

Peter Kristian came to Hilton Head Island 15 years ago for a job. Soon, the general manager of Hilton Head Plantation realized that beyond its natural beauty, the island was setting national trends in community development.


Now, he’s looking forward to showcasing that forward thinking to his fellow members of the Community Associations Institute (CAI), an international organization dedicated to building better communities.

The group will hold its annual Large Scale Managers Workshop with the Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island serving as the home base for the sold-out conference from Sept. 17-20.

The grand opening of Hilton Head Island's Whole Foods Market takes place on Wednesday, July 30. Bread-breaking will be at 8:45 a.m. with mayor Drew Laughlin. 


His hair is grayer than it used to be. He’s raised a family despite being married to a building and a profession. The megastores are spawning all around him.

Yet, as Dave Martin begins his 33rd year as the outfront man for a five-decade Hilton Head Island institution, he has never been more excited to come to work in the morning.

“You can only stack soup cans for so long without it getting monotonous,” Martin said while sitting atop a stack of boxes in the stock room of the Coligny Plaza Piggly Wiggly. “At the end of the day, the thing that still gets me charged up each day is the people and the idea that after all these years, we’re still giving the islanders something different each day.”

I recently read the results of a survey conducted by Jae Wang and Veronica Bravo for USA Today that showed that 42 percnet of the respondents thought it was more difficult to get a mortgage today than it was just one year ago.

Just 18 percent thought it was easier, while 18 percent thought it the same and 22 percent weren’t sure.

To be perfectly frank I’m concerned about their sampling methods when they have 22 percent not sure, but I’ll leave that to another month’s column.

Here we are in July 2014, at the height of tourist season on Hilton Head Island, and I thought that this might be an appropriate time to take a look back on the economic calendar.  

It is a well-known fact that if one doesn’t learn the lessons of history, one is doomed to repeat those lessons. The economic events of the last decade have had a profound impact on our community, not only in the pure destruction of wealth, but in how we view ourselves and how others view us.

Starting with the forced merger of Bear Stearns into JPMorgan Chase in 2008 and the failure of Lehman Brothers in the same year, Congress, regulators and the public at large have been questioning our banking policy of “Too Big to Fail.

The passage of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) at the end of the George W. Bush Administration has been widely criticized as corporate welfare and a “bailout” for rich, selfserving bankers.

What we in Hilton Head Island and Bluffton should be concerned with is, do we have the national will to let our community banks thrive? Money center banking (a large bank in a major financial center which borrows from and lends to governments, corporations and other banks) is important to the world economy and local banking is critical to small businesses in our market.