Economic development tops goal-setting list

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Economic development — and worries about the stability of the island’s tourism-based economy — dominated Town Council discussions during Hilton Head’s annual goal-setting retreat this fall.

As the council was setting its agenda for the upcoming year, debate about how to keep the island fresh economically and physically overshadowed the workshop. The council wants to find new methods to facilitate the re-use of old buildings, in addition to looking at new avenues to push the economy forward, town manager Steve Riley said. In the wake of news that Verizon was pulling its sponsorship from the island’s signature golf tournament, the town said it wants to focus on attracting new industries or activities to bolster fnancial health for businesses and residents. A large part of the island’s economy used to be real estate and housing construction; but those engines have cooled as the island approaches build-out.

“That probably isn’t a huge part of our economy going forward,” Riley said. “What is that third leg of the stool?”

One of the options, he said, may be healthcare tourism, which would attract people to the island for relaxing surgery or rehab vacations, he said.

Other items the council put at the top of its agenda for the coming year include a growth plan for the Coligny area; funding for the project to repair erosion on the beach of Port Royal Plantation; promotion of the Heritage tournament, creating and implementing a residential recycling program; and discussion of Town Hall’s role in dredging projects on the island. The town will also focus on completing the airport master plan and creating a policy for dealing with trees that protrude into airplane fight paths.