Reconciling with the CRDA

Santee Cooper President Lonnie Carter strongly advocates a united approach to tri-county economic progress through the Charleston Regional Development Alliance. (File)

Charleston County Council took a needed reality check last week, deciding not to bail out on the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, as council chairman Teddie Pryor had previously announced. Instead, council will attempt to repair the rifts in the public-private economic development initiative.

That's the right course to take, considering the CRDA's longstanding contribution to the economic health of the tri-county area over the last 19 years. As Santee Cooper President Lonnie Carter points out, the CRDA has brought in $7.5 billion in investment, resulting in 27,500 new jobs.

That success can be largely attributed to a concerted regional effort. A breakup threatens progress in the future.

"This would not be the time to shift to a divided, fractured approach," Mr. Carter, chairman of the alliance board, told council.

Apparently, Charleston County's discussions with the CRDA already have advanced toward a reconciliation. Mr. Pryor, in particular, appears to have reversed course.

"I think we are a few days from being where we need to be. We are this close together," Mr. Pryor said at Tuesday's council meeting, holding his hands a few inches apart. Other council members were equally supportive.

"We want to get shoulder to shoulder with y'all and get back on the same page," vice chairman Elliott Summey said.

And council member Colleen Condon said, "I'm hoping we can cut a check soon."

Charleston County Council has withheld its annual allocation to the alliance. So has Berkeley County Council, and Dorchester has sharply reduced its yearly grant.

But Ms. Condon added that she wants to see the CRDA work in "lock step" with Charleston County's economic development office.

Counties have complained about being left out of the process. They also say the salary of the alliance director and the CRDA's expenses for wining and dining prospects are too high. So while the atmosphere is improving, there are still important differences to address.

A Sept. 10 meeting is planned with state Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt to advance a final resolution with the alliance and its sponsoring counties.

Mr. Hitt, who has led South Carolina's successful economic development effort for most of the last four years, knows the process and the stakes as well as anyone.

The Lowcountry is on a winning streak for investment and job growth.

Continued success will be jeopardized if the regional approach is suddenly discarded.