I was pleased to see in your Aug. 17 editorial the call for prudence in the face of a rush by selected critics to dismantle the Charleston Regional Development Alliance (CRDA) and replace it with fragmented efforts at the county level.
Is the posturing over executive compensation and accountability merely a cover-up of deeper issues as Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley county councils pull or reduce their funding of the CRDA to instead work with their in-house "experts" to bring new business and industry to the region?
Are their egos so fragile that they fear playing in the sandbox together and being collectively represented by one body to the outside business community, media and potential investors? Why is collaboration so difficult?
Such insular thinking is what holds our region and even our entire state back from all it could be.
By my observation, the CRDA has delivered value to the region and openly and frequently communicated both its goals and accomplishments. Witness, for example:
Through the CRDA's internationally focused media relations program, it has built global recognition of the Charleston region as a globally competitive location for conducting world-class business and finding the needed talent for employment, similar to the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau's successes in the region's travel/tourism industry.
Over the past five years alone, its efforts generated 100 story placements with an advertising equivalency of $6-plus million. Today, one in eight visitors to the CRDA's website (traffic totaling 125,000 visitors) represents a unique international visitor. The CRDA has focused, well-researched industry targets driven by global demand patterns and marketable core competencies of our region's workplace.
It is noteworthy that these targets are also reflected in goals and strategies adopted by higher education institutions and organizations in the region, including my own, the Lowcountry Graduate Center, serving professionals living and working throughout the tri-county area and beyond.
While CRDA investors will undoubtedly differ as to how they measure "return on investment," one essential assessment is measuring the economic impact of new job creation by companies directly assisted by the CRDA. Between 2004 and 2013, the economic impact of CRDA-facilitated announcements in the region totaled more than $7 billion.
Over two decades ago, Dr. Michael Porter of the Harvard Business School began publishing and espousing the value of cluster strategies in regional economic development efforts and was contracted by the state to help us with our statewide planning and industry targeting efforts so as to compete successfully in the global economy.
The rationale for regional cluster strategies is well researched and documented.
Why is it still so difficult to explain to locals the benefits of combining strengths to leverage limited resources in our region and across the state of South Carolina?
We really must get beyond this chronic plague of myopic vision and selfishness. I call it the "dog in the manger syndrome," serving no useful purpose to anyone. Such antics contribute to redundant and wasteful spending of taxpayer monies.
At the Lowcountry Graduate Center, we celebrate the possibilities afforded our community through collaboration and by working in concert with, rather than at odds against, each other and thus continue to support the CRDA. I enlist others to join us.
Nancy Muller, Ph.D, MBA
Director and Associate Dean
Lowcountry Graduate Center
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