Keeping businesses happy so they stay in Charleston County 

Jennifer Brown, Existing Industry Specialist

As an existing industry specialist in Charleston County's Economic Development Department, Jennifer Brown spends a lot of time touring manufacturing plants and tech company offices

Jonathan Boncek

As an existing industry specialist in Charleston County's Economic Development Department, Jennifer Brown spends a lot of time touring manufacturing plants and tech company offices

In each installment of the Working Life series, a local worker describes what his or her job is like. The stories are taken directly from interviews and told in the first person with minimal or no editing of the subjects' natural speech patterns.

Basically, as existing industry specialist, I work with our deputy director of economic development to maintain the business retention and expansion program, also called BRE. It's important once we land companies here in Charleston that, from a recruiting standpoint, it doesn't stop there. Both the deputy director and I and our whole team try to maintain relationships with existing companies that are here, helping them grow and expand and not leave Charleston. That is the goal.

I find it very exciting and challenging. On any given day I can go from a high-tech software company over to a really impressive manufacturing facility where I had no idea that we made that in Charleston. Everything from visiting the old Navy base over to the Port Authority down to heavy industrial parks that we have in Charleston — I mean, you just go up and down the highway and go about your way just being a citizen here, and you don't notice that these different pockets are all over our county and our region is manufacturing really cool things and employing a lot of people.

A site visit usually involves a tour and just problem-solving. If they want to hire more employees, we put them in touch with different resources we have around the county and the state, different programs. We're almost like a liaison for the municipality, the county, or the state, any programs that are available, whether it's workforce training, even to the tax incentive standpoint for expanding or capital investment and job creation. To talk about tax incentives, they usually go through our director, Steve Dykes. He's been here for about 20 years coming up, so he's the boss in charge of all of that. I'm not involved in that portion, so I can't really explain all that. A lot of it's secretive, of course.

We have a big industry appreciation luncheon coming up in October that celebrates and highlights the companies in Charleston that are continuing to grow and be a success. And so we do that for them. It's also a great networking opportunity for different industries to come together and figure out how to help each other. We're also trying to figure out more events in the future, whether it's quarterly or twice a year, to try and bring manufacturing and high-tech together, or the biomedical research sector, different things that are growing in Charleston.

So it's really exciting and challenging at the same time, because you really have to adapt to different conversations and what needs a company has versus a different company in a totally different industry. But the bottom line is our office is here to help and support companies' growth.

Myself, as a young professional, I chose to live here after I graduated from Clemson, and of course the beach and downtown and the history and all the attractions attract you to Charleston, but you do want to have a good career and be able to create a life here as well. The goal is to keep Charleston a lifetime city where you could come here not only as a young professional but grow in your career and continue to live here through retirement.

I've been doing this just about four months. Before this, I was in health care, and actually I've been a county employee before with the Judicial Center. So I've kind of just grown my career path that way. I have a business background, business management from Clemson, and received my MBA from the Citadel, so this kind of took me back to business.

I love Charleston. I chose to live here, and it's an exciting place to live, and I just want to see it succeed. And that's why I love what I do, because it's meeting the foundation of what's going to continue our city to grow.


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