If you keep up with what the Town of Bluffton is doing in regard to economic development, you know that we recently merged the Bluffton Public Development Corporation and the Don Ryan Center for Innovation into a single nonprofit - still named the Don Ryan Center for Innovation - to pursue a variety of economic development initiatives for our residents and for our future. Since both of those organizations work in economic development in different areas, it made sense to tie them together.
David Nelems, who was the executive director of the incubator, is now the CEO of the organization.
We hired Trent Williamson as vice president of economic development. Trent comes to us from the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce where he worked in economic development. However, as a Beaufort County native, he has a love and understanding of this place we all share.
We rounded out the team with Keri Dylan, our operations manager, and she keeps it all humming along.
These three individuals are committed to growing Bluffton and the economic development opportunities under the guidance of their board of directors and Town Council and by listening to our residents as to what they need.
This new organization is already making progress. We recently recruited a small, light and clean manufacturing company from the northeast. Trent is working with this organization to make sure they get the right space and the right workforce for their needs.
At the same time, the incubator side is making sure this company is set up properly from a legal, sales, marketing and procedural standpoint so it can scale efficiently to meet the company's demand.
We feel within three years this one organization will bring 15 high-skilled, light manufacturing career opportunities to Bluffton.
This is exactly what we envisioned when we merged the two organizations.
But most business growth comes from who is already here. So, we are reaching out to local businesses to find out how we can help them grow. We are going to be marketing the remaining space at Buckwalter Place (yes, there is still some space out there) for brand-new companies that offer high-impact, high-knowledge careers and Bluffton companies that need space to grow into. Finally, when the Don Ryan Center moves into its new office at Buckwalter in the second quarter of 2018, we will launch the HUB.
The HUB will be the first "co-working" location in Bluffton and Southern Beaufort County. Our incubator will be there with space for start-up companies, and public space for people to experience high-speed Internet or a great cup of coffee. It will highlight the entrepreneurship community that exists in Bluffton and become a great space to be with like-minded individuals while work gets done.
Economic development, business incubation, co-working space, an experienced and dedicated staff - combined with a strategic plan for smart, right-sized economic growth and opportunities for Bluffton will be all in one place, in one organization. That is how we are tying it all together.
Visit us at www.donryancenter.com to learn more.
Finally, let me remind you that our third annual DRCI golf tournament will be held Sept. 11 at Palmetto Bluff. It is not too late to benefit from some great sponsorship opportunities and to sign up to play.
If you were not lucky enough to get in during the first two years, register now before it fills up again. Visit www.drcigolf.com to get more information.
Lisa Sulka is the mayor of the Town of Bluffton.