Kick-off for outdoor initiative held

  • Tuesday, July 30, 2013

From left, Representative Patsy Knight, Senator John Matthews, Councilman Willie Davis, Representative Joe Jefferson, and Dorchester County Economic Development Director Jon Baggett are pictured together at Francis Beidler Forest after the kick-off ceremony of the SC Great Outdoors Initiative. PROVIDED

Upper Dorchester County to Serve as Pilot Community in SC Great Outdoors Program
Sen. John W. Matthews Jr., Rep. Patsy G. Knight, and Rep. Joseph Jefferson presented a check on July 12 to Dorchester County District I Councilman Willie Davis, containing the local match requirement to participate as a Pilot Community in SC National Heritage Corridor’s new initiative, SC Great Outdoors.
Through funding from the Upper Dorchester County Economic Development Fund, this initiative will leverage Upper Dorchester County’s outdoor recreational assets as catalysts for economic development.  Partners in tourism marketing and economic development, Michelle McCollum, President and CEO of the SC National Heritage Corridor; Mayor Charles Ackerman, Town of Harleyville; Mayor Anne Johnston, Mayor of St. George; Rita C. Berry, President and CEO of the Greater Summerville/Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce; Nancyjean D. Nettles, Director of Development for the Francis Beidler Forest; and Jon Baggett, Dorchester County Economic Development Director were also present.
With the tagline, “get a little dirty”, the purpose of the SC Great Outdoors Initiative is to market South Carolina’s “undiscovered” outdoor recreational assets – those that are located off the beaten path.  Through public, private, and civic partnerships, the SC Great Outdoors Initiative aims to promote SC’s natural resources, create sustainable economic development opportunities, improve quality of life, and inspire stewardship in visitors and residents alike.  
Upper Dorchester County’s rich natural, historical, and cultural resources, proximity to Interstates 26 and 95, as well as its position within both the BCD Region and the SC National Heritage Corridor are advantageous toward tourism and economic development.  Given the rural nature of this portion of the County, visitor traffic is critical to local business health. However, traditionally, tourism marketing and product development has focused on historical and cultural assets, with little attention paid to the rich natural and scenic resources of Upper Dorchester County.  To leverage these resources, this project aims to distinguish Upper Dorchester County as an outdoor recreation destination.
“Upper Dorchester County is very fortunate to have many outdoor treasures, such as the Francis Beidler Forest, as well as other undiscovered gems…this project will allow us to take advantage of these untapped tourism opportunities to support local businesses and grow the economy,” said Dorchester County Councilman Willie Davis.
“When I first heard about this program, I was very excited to think about the doors that this initiative would open for Upper Dorchester County. The western part of the County has a number of outdoor recreation opportunities that make Dorchester County an ideal candidate for this program and will enhance the tourism industry.  I would also like to thank the SC National Heritage Corridor for their partnership and support to make our efforts possible,” said Sen. Matthews.
“We are fortunate to have been selected to act as a Pilot Community in the SC National Heritage Corridor’s new initiative, SC Great Outdoors,” said Rep. Knight. “When I was contacted by Economic Development about this opportunity, Senator Matthews, Representative Jefferson, and I saw the potential for a vibrant tourism industry and jumped at the chance to help make this a reality.”
Rep. Jefferson said the initiative is proof positive that Dorchester County is forward-thinking.
“The County’s success is not only measured by its dedicated leaders, but through an abundance of natural resources and available assets. Natural resources like Francis Beidler Forest have enabled the County to expand upon such programs as the SC Great Outdoors Initiative. The Legislative Delegation for Upper Dorchester County is pleased to support this program,” he said.
Through a 60/40 cost-sharing approach, the SCNHC will equip Upper Dorchester County, the portion of the County West of Four Holes Swamp, with the resources to effectively market its outdoor recreational assets.  As part of this initiative, SCNHC will develop detailed outdoor recreation asset assessments and a strategic tourism marketing and branding plan, offer tourism hospitality training to area service providers, and devise performance metrics for continued monitoring.  In addition, acting as one of only three Pilot Communities will give Upper Dorchester County distinct exposure and recognition.
“We are excited to work with Dorchester County, which will act as one of three pilot communities in the State to launch this new initiative,” said Michelle McCollum. “Because of its uniqueness, the Francis Beidler Forest and the Edisto River are two of five key natural treasures selected across South Carolina to provide the foundation for this statewide initiative.”
Dorchester County is excited to commence this project and appreciates the continued support of the Legislative Delegation, the SC National Heritage Corridor, and its partners in tourism and economic development.  
Dorchester County Economic Development is the organization responsible for growing and retaining business in the County.  Its mission is to work to create and support an environment that welcomes business, and helps companies to grow and succeed over the long-term.  This ultimately will increase the standard of living for all of Dorchester County’s citizens by providing more job opportunities with higher skills and better wages.

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