John A OTooleIn 2017, area mayors and County Council came together to form the Beaufort County Economic Development Corp. They formed the organization with an eye toward diversifying the county’s economy and creating better jobs.

The BCEDC got off to a fast start in its first few years and then came the COVID-19 pandemic. What was to become momentum, stalled for a year as vaccines were developed and things could get back to a “new normal.”

In its first few years the BCEDC booked just under $200 million in projects, 770 new jobs, 175 retained jobs — all with an average pay of $47,800. When investors are asked why they’re choosing Beaufort County, it’s because of our exhilarating environment, skilled workforce and concierge-level assistance.

The proof lies within the decisions by GlassWRX, Material Research Group, Stoneworks, Burnt Church Distillery, Lowcountry Fresh Market & Café, Magnus Development Partners, Geismar, L3Harris, Lockheed Martin, RX Industries and Salt Marsh Brewery who have all decided to invest in Beaufort County in recent years. Bottom line: The collaboration of so many partner organizations around economic development in Beaufort County is making the post COVID-19 horizon look even brighter than what has been accomplished to date.

Currently, Magnus Development Partners is building a 64,000-square-foot speculative industrial building. It’s expected to be under contract before the foundations poured later this summer. One of our prospect companies, an aerospace company from the Midwest, is in negotiations with Magnus for the whole building.

The market is hot. A 50,000-square-foot building came on the market Feb. 1 and was under contract with a California company by Feb. 12. The demand that was created prior to COVID-19 is still there. Now, in the aftermath of the pandemic, interest in Beaufort County has only heightened. The Beaufort County Economic Development Corp’s pipeline of projects, over $45 million, includes headquarter s , aerospace, defenses. healthcare, cosmetics, and light manufacturing.

Workforce across the United States is a challenge.

The key to Beaufort County’s success is the good men and women of the U.S. Marine Corps. Each year approximately 2,000 Marines exit the military annually within Beaufort County, providing employers an opportunity to hire individuals with the skills, discipline and leadership needed to grow a business.

Lockheed Martin is a great example of a company that is the beneficiary of Beaufort County’s continuous flow of exiting U.S. Marines. Over the last two years, Lockheed Martin has added 70 employees. In one hiring tranche, Lockheed interviewed 30 applicants of which they were able to make offers to 28 qualified individuals. Invariably, when Beaufort County emerges from the site selection process it is because the decision maker believes they can thrive here.

 John A. O’Toole, CEcD, is Executive Director of Beaufort County Economic Development Corporation.