Photo above: Jasper County residents talk during the July 16 Promise Zone Meeting. Courtesy of www.scpromisezone.org.
90,000 residents. 28% in poverty and 15% unemployment. This is reality for the South Carolina Lowcountry Promise Zone, a federally-designated region encompassing portions of Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper Counties. Through the combined efforts of partners, supporters and local communities, the SC Promise Zone aims to bring millions of dollars in federal funding to spur economic development and improve quality of life for the region.
Led by the Southern Carolina Regional Development Alliance (SCA), the Promise Zone involves more than 30 institutions across the southern tip of the state, including Center for a Better South, Technical College of the Lowcountry and the S.C. Association of Community Economic Development. The Promise Zone designation lasts for 10 years and helps the region in two ways: counties in the zone will receive staffing assistance to create compelling grant applications, and those applications will receive extra points in the scoring process.
For the past several weeks, Center for a Better South led town hall meetings across the SC Promise Zone to educate community members about the opportunities available through the Promise Zone. Andy Brack, President of the Center, said, “I didn’t expect 650 people over four days. I was blown away by the positive reaction and engagement that the people in the communities provided.”
“They shared their area’s strength and vision – it was exciting,” continued Brack. “What the town hall meetings did is pull together communities in a way that hasn’t been done in a past.”
In the next few months, the SC Promise Zone will publish a strategic plan based on feedback from the town hall meetings that narrows the group’s focus. Nonprofits in Beaufort County are potentially eligible for Promise Zone funding if their projects primarily help people living in the Promise Zone. To learn more, visit www.scpromisezone.org or email sca@SouthernCarolina.org.