This Thursday, the four counties of Barnwell, Bamberg, Allendale and Hampton are meeting to hammer out an agreement which may have long-lasting impacts on our region.
In 2008, the counties of Barnwell, Bamberg, Allendale and Hampton formed an alliance in the form of a quad-county agreement. Each county then established industrial parks to use under that agreement.
The gist of the agreement was to join forces to attract business and industry to the region, then split the tax revenue generated by that industry.The original percentage split was either 97-1-1-1 or 40-20-20-20 depending on the dollar amount of the new industry's investment. The "host" county gets the largest percentage.
In recent years, Barnwell County has considered changing that agreement to a 70-10-10-10 split because residents didn't like the fact that 60 percent of the revenue was sent elsewhere. Barnwell County Council also has worked outside deals with other counties - something the other three members of the Quad-County Alliance are not happy with. In response, Hampton, Bamberg and Allendale counties have been working on options of their own which, in the future, would not include Barnwell County.
There is potential long-lasting damage to relationships between Barnwell and these counties if we are seen as not standing by our handshake. The ripple effect may go beyond economic recruitment.
This week's meeting may be seen as somewhat of a summit where members have the opportunity to come together and re-negotiate a reasonable partnership; or walk away from the table with Barnwell isolated from the others.
While we agree the "host" county should get the lion's share of tax revenue when an industry agrees to create jobs in the region, we also see the value of partnerships.
The greatest value of an economic development partnership is that small, economically-challenged counties have greater opportunity and negotiating abilities when they join forces. But, then, those in the partnership have to share the bounty when those efforts bear fruit.
Compromise takes effort.
We hope the county councils of Barnwell, Bamberg, Allendale and Hampton counties will be able to work out a viable compromise which benefits all.
But, once that compromise is struck, stand by your handshake.
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