To the Editor:

World class business and small-town charm, Summerville is blessed with both of those.  For the 750 members of The Chamber, those two attributes are the secret sauce for success. That’s why our board of directors voted overwhelmingly to put our support behind the referendums to support parks and libraries.

For Summerville businesses, parks and libraries don’t just mean a better of quality of life. They are critical for attracting and retaining key talent. As baby boomers step out of the workforce, millennials are settling in, starting families and most importantly, coming of age as the next business leaders. A study by the American Institute for Economic Research shows that approximately 70 percent of young college graduates decide where to relocate based on quality of life factors.  In short, they are motivated more by city amenities than economic conditions. Those amenities include things like mass transportation, … and libraries and parks. For current residents and retirees, these same amenities have direct and tangible impacts on quality of life.  

Let’s dig a little deeper. Libraries. Didn’t those go out of vogue with the advent of the internet? Today’s libraries may look and function differently than libraries of previous decades, but they still maintain a critical role of educating and connecting community members to each other and to the rest of the world. Our libraries provide internet access for those who don’t have home access and serve a key role in workforce development by giving residents access to conduct job searches, complete resumes, and apply for jobs. They provide gathering spaces for community groups, and promote literacy at a young age, a major contributing factor to graduation rates. The library referendum ensures that every corner of our county can easily access library services- it’s time. With a population of 160,000, Dorchester County is the twelfth largest county in terms of population, and we rank near the bottom for access to libraries. A “yes” vote for libraries expands access to libraries for all sectors of our community - providing opportunities for early literacy, test preparation and workforce development for all ages.

The second question on the ballot provides funding for parks. Our Chamber has visited cities across the country in an effort to bring innovative new ideas to our community. With each visit, it is abundantly clear which communities value their public infrastructure. Those with vibrant parks systems and abundant greenspace also celebrate robust economic development. In turn the economic development spurs a demand for parks and greenspace. It’s a cycle that builds a community. Even better, good parks aren’t just good for business; they are good business. The economic impact of parks in South Carolina includes $1.3 billion in transactions (economic activity), $433.9 billion in labor income, and over 12,000 jobs. The plan for parks that will be made possible by a “yes” vote gives Dorchester County a chance to invest in our future while preserving and creating great places.

As a chamber, our role is to create and promote an environment that helps businesses succeed and by extension, shares the wealth across the community.  Two votes -  “yes” for parks and “yes” for libraries checks those boxes.

Rita Berry,

CEO, Greater Summerville-Dorchester County Chamber