January 2017

A Note From Our Mayors

Author: David Bennett & Lisa Sulka | Photographer: Krisztian Lonyai

A Note from David Bennett
The past is in our future

What are you looking forward to in 2017? And how often do you look back? By the time these words land here in print, much of what I’ll recount will be history. But history is, indeed, of considerable value, and critical to our future. For as the wise know, to embrace, treasure and understand the past, and to learn from and celebrate heroes who overcame unimaginable obstacles, is to truly prepare well for the future.

Reconstruction was birthed right here, in the Lowcountry. Many of our own native islanders are descendants of those courageous people who experienced it. Remarkably, they witnessed the day when slavery turned to freedom, when the right to openly govern themselves and be counted among the “all people” of the Declaration of Independence was boldly announced in the Emancipation Proclamation. But, even before this, they dwelled as no other community of freed slaves had before—in Mitchelville. In Mitchelville, they elected their own leaders and established a compulsory education act. In Mitchelville, families worked and worshipped and lived together freely.

And here’s where regionalism intersects with our distinct island identity and where our past meets our future. During 2016, Beaufort County’s Heritage Tourism Task Force and its Advisory Committee have catalogued every historical site within Beaufort County, using internationally recognized rating standards. They have developed five themes to tell engaging stories of our rich history, including Native American History, the Age of European Exploration, the Gullah Geechee, Antebellum and the Civil War and Reconstruction. On January 11, Dr. Andy Beall, chairman of the Heritage Tourism Advisory Committee and of the Santa Elena Foundation, together with the four Beaufort County mayors, will meet with representatives of the Visitor and Convention Bureaus for Hilton Head, Bluffton and Beaufort to forge forward-looking plans to attract residents and visitors to these storied sites. Improvements and upgrades to enhance visitors’ experiences will be recommended. Our heritage is truly becoming a unifying regional force, influencing our future.

Certainly, our Lowcountry’s unique history is taking hold and capturing attention. On December 15, United States Congressman James Clyburn and Jonathan Jarvis, director of the National Park Service, sponsored a public meeting at the Brick Baptist Church in St. Helena to gauge the Lowcountry’s level of support and readiness for creating a multi-site National Park Service Monument to Reconstruction in Beaufort County, South Carolina. The church was filled to capacity and overflowing with local officials, representatives of Beaufort County’s heritage organizations and members of the public, including descendants of Robert Smalls. The excitement was tactile. The time has come to move forward with efforts to nationally highlight our heritage. If it’s worth a trip to the President’s desk, it’s worthy of our attention.

If you would like to receive my newsletter by e-mail, please contact me at DavidB@hiltonheadislandsc.gov. I hope you’ll stay involved or get involved.

Happy New Year! 


A Note from Lisa Sulka
Don Ryan Center for Innovation Expanding Reach

For the past four years, companies that we have helped grow have been the core of the Don Ryan Center for Innovation. Now we feel it is time to do more. Innovation is more than just helping the companies in the Center. We want to encourage innovation and economic development at every level for as many people as we can reach.

Encouraging spaces
• In January, the DRCI will open our Beaufort location on the first floor of City Hall. This will allow businesses and new startups access to the same high-quality curriculum, mentor and educational resources without having to travel to Bluffton.
• In 2017 the DRCI will move from our temporary location to a permanent home at Buckwalter Place (across the street) in the new development under construction.
• With the opening of the new permanent home, we will open The HUB: Beaufort County’s premier co-working office. This space will appeal to solopreneurs, remote workers, freelancers, or people searching for some off-site, inspiration. The Hub will be equipped with gigabit Internet via Wi-Fi and will create an atmosphere that allows all guests to feel and be their most productive. At The HUB, small business owners, entrepreneurs and freelancers work alongside like-minded individuals where they can collaborate, create and be a part the entrepreneurial community.

Encouraging partnerships
• The expansion to Beaufort brings a natural partnership with the City of Beaufort as we work together to encourage and support economic development in Northern Beaufort County.
• Our partnership with USCB is beginning to reach into others areas of the institution, and we see this relationship growing as 2017 arrives.
• Working with the new Beaufort Digital Corridor.
• Working with TWEAC and retired military who have decided to make their permanent home in Beaufort County.
• More work with Girls Who Code and new coding projects.
• Continuing work with Beaufort County School District, SCAD and TCL.

Encouraging economic development
LowcountryWorks.com was just our first step into economic development. Now it’s time to think broader, to increase our reach and encourage economic growth in multiple ways and at multiple levels by focusing on six general areas:
• Business Incubation
• Co-working offerings (The HUB)
• Education & Outreach
• Business Attraction, Expansion & Retention
• Workforce Development
• Business Startup/Concierge Services
Encouraging community support
There are so many ways the community can support the Don Ryan Center for Innovation:
• Be a mentor to one of our companies or volunteer at any of our seminars and events.
• Share our page with all your friends on Facebook. It is easy to do, and we can help you if needed.
• Join the Don Ryan Center for Innovation team by becoming a member. This is easy to do at donryancenter.com/membership. Memberships begin at $35 for the year; you really get your money’s worth, while supporting a successful business incubator in Bluffton.
• Sign up for Smile.Amazon.com. This information can also be found on our main website, donryancenter.com or by logging in at smile.amazon.com with your existing Amazon account information. Choose “Bluffton Technology Incubator Corporation,” and a percentage of what you spend will go to our Don Ryan Center. 

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