Growing with the times while preserving history

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Business is booming in Bluffton.

As of mid-August, the town has issued 2,939 business licenses, a 22 percent increase over the 2,408 issued during the same period last year.

In 2016, the town issued a total of 2,766 licenses. According to town officials, the increase is due to the improving economy and to the issuing of more business licenses for special events.

Entrepreneurs are finding a friendly and welcoming business environment in Bluffton, thanks in part to the expanded customer base, and the incredible growth the town has experienced over the past few years.

Between 2015 and 2016, the town's population grew by nearly 2,000, or 11.6 percent, to 18,897 people.

Amid all that population, business and infrastructure growth, town leaders have found that delicate balance between modernizing and smart development while preserving historical integrity.

Old Town Bluffton has an incredible story that dates back to the early 1800s, when the small, summer dwellings overlooking the May River were built.

Bluffton's storied past is preserved today, and two structures that underwent repairs and renovations this summer will continue to breathe life into the town's history for years to come.

The Heyward House, a 176-year-old summer home and one of only eight Bluffton antebellum homes to survive the Civil War, is a part of the heart of Old Town. The Heyward House underwent a top-to-bottom and inside-and-out update this summer to modernize the building while preserving its historical presence.

The Bluffton Historical Preservation Society held a ribbon cutting last month with local officials and members of the Heyward family to commemorate the occasion.

This renovation comes on the heels of the Garvin-Garvey house dedication, held in June. Believed to be one of the first structures built in Bluffton by a freed slave, the house offers a glimpse into what life was like after the Civil War.

The house, the land it sits on, the park and the town are all a part of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, which is a designated National Heritage Area.

History co-exists with modern life in the new South, and is something we celebrate and live among every day. That's not something you can find anywhere, and it is only one part of what makes Bluffton so special.

Bill Miles is president and CEO of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.

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