Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Charleston Introduces Economic Initatives

Posted by Greg Hambrick on Wed, Jan 28, 2009 at 5:27 PM

Anyone (well, anyone in a thriving coastal community) can scrounge up new business in the middle of an economic boom.

The real talent is finding the small handful of businesses still growing in a recession and convincing them that Charleston is the place to settle among all the water-adjacent East Coast spots (and they're more plentiful now than ever).

This morning, Mayor Joe Riley expanded on some of the business-friendly initiatives the city will be implementing over the next few weeks. Riley likened the city's response to what it would do for a hurricane.

"We want to make sure no one is injured and the recovery is quick," he says.

First, for the businesses already here, the city will be hosting "Weathering the Economy" forums in different business districts. The forums could include information to help business owners with things like renegotiating a lease or bank loan, among other things.

"We want to make sure local businesses have all the resources they need," Riley says. "There are small businesses without the (internal) capacity for this kind of help."

The city will also be opening a business resource center this spring that will give the city's new business development office some breathing room and provide a storefront for business owners and entrepreneurs to use when they need assistance.

"This will take economic development to a retail level," says Ernest Andrade, the city's business development chief.

A new website will aggregate business news stories relating to the Charleston market while providing an online resource for prospective businesses looking to locate in the area.

"The key is what we're doing is tangible and proactive," Andrade says.

Finally, the nonprofit Charleston Digital Corridor Foundation, an independent organization tied to the city's digital corridor venture, has offered to pay the business license fees for start-up companies with a focus in computer software, life sciences, and medical devices for up to two years.

Riley stressed that this is the beginning of the city's business development push, not the end.

"We want to challenge ourselves everyday," Riley says, noting there may be as many as a dozen individual programs, depending on what the business market needs to thrive.

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