NewswireToday - /newswire/ -
Lexington, SC, United States, 2010/09/30 - About 30 members of an emerging group of Midlands-based chambers of commerce agreed Tuesday to keep pushing to organize a Midlands Chambers Coalition for economic improvement in the area.
At the Coalition’s second organizational meeting, members decided to organize an effort to strengthen relationships with local legislators and government agencies to create jobs and improve quality of life. Similar groups have organized in South Carolina’s coastal and upstate regions, resulting in improved political gains with the General Assembly as well as economic gains for their areas.
Representatives from 12 area chambers of commerce, the Central South Carolina Alliance, BB&T and the Columbia Metropolitan Airport attended the luncheon meeting, which was hosted by the airport and sponsored by BB&T. Otis Rawl, president of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, addressed the coalition and pledged financial help to get it started.
Rawl was asked what the short-term goals of the group should be. He proposed three actions:
• Local governments should purchase property and prepare and permit industrial sites for potential businesses and industries. If sites are ready, companies won’t have to “go through a lot of red tape” and can start producing products quickly;
• Build positive and productive relationships between city and county governments;
• Use existing educational centers for research, which in turn will lead to high-tech job creation and “product to market” initiatives
Randy Halfacre, president and CEO of the Greater Lexington Chamber and Visitors Center, has been spearheading the Midlands Chambers Coalition with Ike McLeese, president of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce. Halfacre also is working with Steve Benjamin, Columbia’s new mayor, and Bobby Horton, West Columbia’s mayor, to form a league of mayors that could be instrumental in working in partnership with the Midlands Regional Coalition.
“The bottom line in both efforts is increased economic opportunities to create jobs in the Midlands,” Halfacre said. “That is a primary goal facing both government and the private sector. We need to work together in its accomplishment.”
The need for the Coalition was initiated when Southwest Airlines decided to locate its discount air service at the airports in Charleston and Greenville. Since then, various Midlands-area chambers of commerce and municipalities have pledged money to win a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, allowing it to improve competitiveness at Columbia Metropolitan Airport. Meanwhile, organizational members of the Midlands Coalition have been studying two groups:
• The Coastal Chambers Alliance, composed of 11 chambers of commerce and representing 1 million residents and 10,000 businesses and organizations on the coast;
• The Upstate Chamber Coalition, composed of 10 chambers of commerce and representing 8,000 businesses and more than 200,000 employees.
Both groups identify economic development needs in their areas and work with their legislators to get those needs met. Interested members of the Midlands Chambers Coalition will meet again in three weeks. “Hopefully we’ll finalize a plan of action,” Halfacre said.