HHI Ethics Society Seminar
Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017
Hilton Head Regional Library
PRESENTERS: John Patten and Andy Twisdale
Moderator: Gerry Schroeter
Summary of Presentation
John Patten Bio:
Andy Twisdale Bio:
The meeting was held before a large and involved audience.
Members of the Board of the Ethics Society of Hilton Head Island began discussions about the Island’s workforce shortage, as highlighted in the 2016 series published in the Island Packet’s series, “Propping Up Paradise”.
John Patten took up the mantel of the Ethics Society. He attended the United Workforce Summit held in March by the Hilton Head-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce. He opened the meeting with a summary of the challenges and solutions as outlined by speakers at the Summit.
The principal speaker at the Summit, Dr. Bill Hettinger, author of “Living in Paradise: Why Housing is so Expensive and What Communities Can Do About It” had explained that Paradise Communities do not work as classical economic conditions might by saying “supply does not adjust to equal demand”.
The tenets that define a “paradise community”, such as being “land locked”- and whose home owner’s wealth is derived from other places, often as second homes are not always involved in the community.
Homes that may seem expensive to locals, look like bargains to out-of-towners. Locals (workers) become displaced and have to commute from further and further away to service the tourist based economy of Hilton Head.
Home values on Hilton Head Island have dropped from a median price of $772,000 in 2000 to $535,000 in 2016 ... thus making home ownership more inviting for the retiring population of baby boomers.
Many readiness and marketing ideas came from both speakers, including training for interface personnel and need for affordable workforce housing.
Due to rapid development of housing communities in Beaufort County the population center is moving westward, toward Bluffton, and will most likely extend to Sun City within 5 years. Thus workers do not now, or will not have to travel so far, or for so many hours in the future, to be employed. Workers are already getting off the bus in Bluffton or Sun City.
In the early days developers like Charles Fraser planned work force housing for employees; gradually those houses became occupied by incoming permanent residents or second home vacation buyers. Andy stated that 70% of island homes are now owner occupied. Countering the decline in the workforce on the island indicates the need for more buses and routes crisscrossing rural S. C. Employers need to do their part by paying higher wages and subsidizing travel time as well as travel expenses.
Andy Twisdale entered the conversation by echoing many of the same problems and solutions as mentioned in the UNITE report. Stating that the Town has money, he asked questions about investing and training for careers in the hospitality industry. (A Hospitality School facility is now in process by USCB). He also suggests stronger identification of the island with the indigenous culture, such as Lowcountry and Gullah Cuisine.
Stating that the Town owns 1800 acres of undeveloped land and asks why 1200 of these acres might be used in public-private partnerships. Seeking a younger population group he suggested that as a one-industry economy the Town might invest in attracting digital/electronic communication types of industries to expand our economic base (One that is not so dependent on a housing dependent workforce).
There was additional conversation about how unoccupied business properties might be converted to affordable housing, if regulations and financing could be made available to make such investments worthwhile.
Lively interaction with the audience ensued including remarks by Betsy Doughty of the Deep Well Project and Town Council member, Tom Lennox, both of whom are knowledgeably informed advocates of islanders needs, its cultural aspects and and the need for action to insure the ongoing success of this particular “paradise community”.
Many Thanks to our presenters, John Patten and Andy Twisdale, for their well researched and clearly exhibited presentations on this extremely important issue for all Hilton head Islanders. Thanks also to Marion Conlin for her concise and well-summarized notes of our meeting, with additional thanks to our Sergeant at Arms Isam Sakati and to all our Attendees at last week’s meeting.
On behalf of your HHI Ethics Board we extend to all, best of wishes for a delightful summer, and shall return again for our next presentation on October 4th, 2017. —a flyer to follow in late September.