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Charleston County has new demands for industry alliance

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Charleston County has new demands for industry alliance

Charleston County issued new demands Monday on the Charleston Regional Development Alliance over the ongoing industry-recruiting squabble.

Demanding more control, Charleston County on Monday threw a new wrinkle in a proposed agreement to iron out differences with the region's main industry recruiter.

In a letter to the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, Charleston County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor said, "Three critical roles and responsibilities have not been resolved to the county's satisfaction."

They include industry recruitment, governance and the alliance's procedures.

The county wants, among other points, joint marketing of the area, full participation in the recruitment process from the first visit of a prospect to closing a deal, hands off by private-sector investors in the recruitment process, and a governing board ruled by a majority of government officials.

Under the tentative agreement worked out last month with the aid of the state Commerce Department, in which Pryor participated and accepted, the alliance would have assumed all marketing responsibilities, handled initial interaction with industrial prospects before handing them over to the counties, and been made up of a majority of private-sector donors, not government members.

Pryor said he signed off on the tentative deal, but he could not speak for the full council.

"I was willing to move forward with the stipulations (of that deal) but not with full funding," Pryor said.

Charleston County Council met last week behind closed doors for about an hour with their economic development director, Steve Dykes, before emerging to withdraw a motion to give more funding to the industry-recruiting agency and to further study the tentative accord.

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The alliance receives about $1 million in combined government funding from Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties as well as from the five largest municipalities in the three counties: Charleston, North Charleston, Goose Creek, Mount Pleasant and Summerville.

Charleston County, at nearly $500,000, has been the largest public-sector contributor each year in a formula based on population. This year it has provided $50,000 and is withholding other funding until differences with the alliance are worked out. Other public-sector contributors have cut or withheld funding as well.

In his letter, Pryor, one of the harshest critics of the alliance when issues erupted over the summer, said, "I ask that the CRDA consider and accept these conditions if you seek council's approval of the proposed agreement and the reinstatement of funding."

Alliance Chairman Lonnie Carter, who is CEO of Santee Cooper, said he was surprised to hear Charleston County's new demands.

"Charleston County was part of a very collaborative process working through key issues between the counties and the alliance," Carter said. "The process involved all the counties, the Department of Commerce and the alliance leadership. The resulting document was agreed to unanimously by all parties. We were surprised to receive a letter from Chairman Pryor listing new terms. The alliance is working on a response."

Pryor said by phone late Monday the new conditions "are not hard demands. Those are simple demands. The biggest problem I think they have is giving up the authority to have more members on the executive committee."

Of the newly proposed agreement, he said, "I wouldn't say it's all or nothing, ... but if they are serious about keeping the county as a partner, they will have to consider it."

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.

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