Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Bringing tourists and new businesses to Georgetown is the job of Tee Miller, hired this year as the city’s first director of Planning and Economic Development.
Miller, who has been working for the city since mid-May, says the definition of his job duties are wide-ranging.
He said not only does he work to try to get new businesses to locate in Georgetown but to also work with existing businesses to “help them do better.”
One way to do that, Miller said, is to make Georgetown a more attractive place.
“If it is an attractive place to live, it is an attractive place to do business,” Miller said.
He describes Georgetown as “a destination. People come here by car and boat. We need to create a place people want to live and work. A place people will want to come and start a business.”
Knowing the city is limited on the size of businesses it can attract because of the lack of available large tracts of land, Miller said he works with Georgetown County economic development officials.
“I do work with the county to try to attract industry. Even if a new business or industry is located outside the city limits, it still benefits the city,” Miller said.
The economy, Miller said, is changing and this will be a benefit to Georgetown in the future.
He said not only are things “booming” from the Waccamaw Neck through Myrtle Beach, the Charleston area is also growing at a rapid pace in both retail and residential.
“This will spread,” Miller said. There is a lot of land — in the city and county — along Highway 17 South that can be developed.
“Instead of moving people here from the Midwest or other parts of the country, we may start attracting people from the Charleston area. People looking for places with Southern charm,” he said.
Miller said one of the biggest challenges of his job is to find the right balance between attracting businesses and concentrating on tourism. Both, Miller said, are vital to the city’s economy.
“Tourism on the coast is a huge industry. Businesses benefit from tourists,” he said. But, Front Street could not survive on tourists alone.”
Miller has a personal stake in making sure Georgetown prospers. He and his wife, Rhodes Miller, own Black Mingo Outfitters on Front Street.
The city only has 15 percent of the county’s population but we have 40 percent of the retail sales in the county, Miller said, adding the main reason is because the only Walmart in the county is in the city limits.
Another boost to the economy, when it happens, is when movies and television shows are filmed partially or entirely in the area.
There have been several movies filmed in both the city and county through the years. The most recent was The Bay which was filmed primarily in the city limits in 2010.
Miller said he has been contacted by producers — one from a “documentary reality show” — about possibly filming in Georgetown.
“There is more we can do to get in with that,” Miller said about trying to attract more film crews.
Miller has worked in government previously including positions in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Commerce.
By Scott Harper