Inside the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce
A Year of Notable Accomplishments

July 26, 2005 – Today the Rotary Club of Charleston kicked off our series of lunches at member’s places of business at the Charleston Metro Chamber, hosted by Charles van Rysselberge, CEO and member of our Club since 2003. Van Rysselberge highlighted a successful year at the Chamber, and enlightened Rotarians on the many efforts the Chamber undertakes for its members and our community.

With 2,500 members and a $4 million budget, the oldest local Chamber in America relies on its full time staff and over 900 volunteers to accomplish its five strategic objectives: education, growth, public policy, regional advancement, and resource development.

Within its mission statement, the Chamber has three main priorities, which are executed through a number of councils and campaigns: advancing the region’s economy, improving the quality of life in the region, and making its members successful. Each of these priorities has been accomplished this year through various Chamber initiatives. For example, in the area of advancing the region’s economy, the Chamber supported efforts to keep Charleston off of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list instituted by the Department of Defense. The Chamber compiled data that will hopefully make a strong case in Washington, D.C. for leaving our military installations and jobs here in Charleston.

The Chamber is also very committed to improving the quality of life in our region, which is next on its list of priorities. The Chamber was heavily involved in the efforts to pass the half-cent sales tax, and headed up a campaign to educate the public as to what exactly the tax would provide and for how long. The tax passed, and as a result, Charleston County can look forward to improved roads, mass transit and greenspace. CARTA, our public transportation system for the region, was saved thanks to this tax, which is a critical component of a region of our size.

Finally, the Chamber strives to make its members successful. Because 90+% of the Chamber’s membership is small businesses, there is a real need for representation and education for its member businesses. The Chamber provides opportunities for its members to succeed through its Leadership Charleston program, networking events, Area Business Councils (ABCs), and other member-to-member opportunities provided by the Chamber and its staff.

As the Chamber welcomes Brian Moody as its new Chair for 2005-2006, van Rysselberge recognized our own Rotarians who have been past Chairs of the Chamber and thanked them for their efforts, including Anita Zucker, Bill Scarborough and Doug Donehue.

Rotarians also enjoyed a video from the Chamber highlighting their successful year, which included such events as the Legislative Reception, held every year at the SC Aquarium, the Annual Gala, Delegate’s trip to Washington, D.C., Total Resource Campaign (where there Chamber raised $1.4 million to finance new and existing programs to support their mission), as well as member networking events, and Ambassador and volunteer efforts.

Van Rysselberge answered questions regarding the Chamber’s relationship to other organizations, including the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) and other local Chambers. He assured us that the Chamber works closely with these and other organizations, and has good relationships with all. In fact, the Charleston Metro Chamber came together with the Berkeley and Dorchester chambers over 10 years ago to create and initially fund the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, which today markets the Charleston region for economic development. The Chamber has also worked with the CVB on such hospitality issues as the mini bottle, the smoking ban in Charleston, and the culinary arts.

We are very proud that our Chamber has been in existence since 1773, and that its mission and objectives have helped this region achieve its reputation as a great place to live, work and raise a family. Thank you Charles, Chamber staff, and volunteers for all your hard work!

By Amy Riley, Keyway Committee

CARTA RELAUNCH
It connects us all

July 19, 2005 – Chairman Patterson Smith, and Howard Chapman, Director of Transportation, presented a very thoughtful program that will help us understand the history, the challenges, and the vision for CARTA. It has just completed a successful re-launch of mass-transit throughout Greater Charleston.

“Mass-transit of Charleston goes back to the horse-drawn carriages,” member Patterson Smith stated. South Carolina Electric & Gas replaced the horse-drawn carriages with electric buses that were later transition to diesel.

In 1997, the utility company got out of the transportation business; creating a need for mass-transit in Charleston and that need was met by CARTA. Like all public owned utilities, it requires a subsidy to operate. In 2000, the referendum failed to get the vote necessary and in 2002 was passed, but overturned in the South Carolina Supreme Court. During this challenging period, CARTA adapted to its reduced income by cutting back or cutting out some expenses. In November 2004, the referendum was successful and today the challenge to CARTA is to meet the needs of the Charleston Area.

According to Chapman, the organization has done significant research and is now re-launching to better meet the needs in Charleston’s environment. Wilber Smith & Associates have done a survey that considered population density, changes in employment density, median income, and transportation needs. The result is a new plan with express routes, Dial-a-Ride service, and neighborhood services.

After the study was completed, phase one implemented public hearings. Fortunately, Charleston County in the intern advanced money to CARTA so they could roll out the services. On June 27, 2005 the new service was re-launched; a week ahead of its schedule. Challenges continue and the organization is addressing operational issues, leadership clarity, as well as, branding and marketing in the community.

CARTA is now using every opportunity to get the message out, including new systems overview maps, road maps (which are now available in Spanish), new bus stop signs, CVB Kiosk, an enhanced website, and brochures designed to reach everyone including those who are sight impaired. The initial “free ride day” boosted ridership from 1,200 per day to 6,500 to reintroduce CARTA. This was an indication of the need.

The 18 board members from 8 different municipalities are working with the staff of CARTA to provide transit for the future. Not only is bus service being reintroduced, but they will also be looking at the addition of light rail transit in the future.

By Wayne Outlaw, Keyway Committee

PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION
Rotarians Thank Mark Smith and Welcome Earl Walker

July 12, 2005 – On July 12 Rotarians thanked President Mark Smith for his leadership and service to the club as he passed the gavel to new president, Earl Walker. Mark presented a summary of the highlights of his term before recognizing and thanking those individuals who had contributed so much.

Mark began his remarks by introducing his wife, Elaine, and expressing his gratitude for her support throughout his term of office. President Mark then listed some of the major accomplishments of the year such as our newly formed sister club in Brisbane, Australia, the many successful open houses hosted by and for club members, the single fund raiser to which he committed (and the associated challenges), and the sculpture intended for the Rotary fountain at Marion Square. Although the latter is not yet finished, he personally promised to see this effort through to completion.

Other important highlights that he went on to mention included the 5 Rotarians to join the Paul Harris Society, the 30 others who became Paul Harris Fellows, and the number of Citations awarded to The Rotary Club of Charleston including the recently received Membership Development and Extension Award.

Mark concluded his remarks by recognizing and thanking each of his board members. He then paused to extend his special thanks to Carroll Schweers, Amy Jenkins, Harold Arnold, Dan Ravenel, Lisa Thomas, and Andy Brack. Finally, Mark addressed the entire membership saying it had been an honor and a privilege to serve them. Mark then passed the Rotary charter and presidential pin to the club’s new president, Earl Walker. Every Rotarian present then rose to applaud thereby demonstrating their thanks and appreciation to Mark for his leadership, dedication and hard work.

It was then Earl Walker’s turn to take the podium as the new President of the Rotary Club of Charleston. He first thanked the club for their vote of confidence in his leadership and then made a few comments about his vision and goals for the coming year. Earl said that the Rotary theme of Renewal, Regeneration, and Rejuvenation would play a strong role in guiding his efforts toward continuous improvement of our great club. Specifically, he envisions increasing the level of active participation among members, along with working to encourage more young people to join our club while building a more diverse membership. His other objectives include finding new opportunities for outside service, fostering greater fellowship among members both personally and professionally, and finding a new project for club members to adopt.

A few innovations Rotarians will soon see include brief committee updates at the start of each meeting, immediate distribution of contact information for new members, committee selection at new member orientation and finally, equal division of monies collected weekly among the Rotary Fund, Charleston Rotary Fund, and the District’s Alzheimer’s (CART) fund.

As a fitting conclusion to this, his first official meeting, Earl asked Anita Zucker and Bruce Murdy to talk about two important principles familiar to every Rotarian. Anita Zucker gave a heartfelt talk about the phrase “service above self” and what it has meant in her life. Bruce Murdy ended the meeting by expressing his thoughts on the subject of the Rotarian Four-Way Test.
Submitted by Helen Harloe

Carolina Day
Charleston celebrates a significant day in American history

June 28, 2005 – Today marked the 229th anniversary of the Battle of Sullivan’s Island, which proved to be a most significant victory against the British. June 28, 1776 has come to be commemorated as “Carolina Day,” and South Carolinians all over the state were preparing to celebrate this important victory, despite the heavy rains and miserable weather.

During the Battle of Sullivan’s Island, 2200 British forces tried to cross what we now know as Breach Inlet (and we all now know how dangerous Breach Inlet is!) at night from Long Island, or what is now Isle of Palms. Those who made it across were faced with hundreds of Patriot forces, and the battle eventually proceeded to Fort Sullivan on the Island, and although the fort was not completed at the time, it withstood British fire with the help of the palmetto logs which made up its construction. General Moultrie and his South Carolina patriots eventually won the battle of Ft. Sullivan was the first Patriot victory during the Revolutionary War, and was won six days before the official signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Many heroes were born from this battle and from the War in general, including General Moultrie (for whom Fort Sullivan was renamed), Sgt. William Jasper (a Georgian who was recruited by Francis Marion), General Charles Lee, and Sgt. James McDaniel who was wounded during the Battle. In fact, General Moultrie was so revered, he went on to serve two terms as Governor of South Carolina.

The Palmetto Society was founded in 1777 to commemorate Carolina Day, and the organization still exists today. It is the 13th oldest organization in the state of South Carolina. Events planned to commemorate this day included a service at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church (downtown), tours at the Gibbes Museum of Art, a procession form Washington Park to White Point Gardens, wreath laying at White Point Gardens, and a ceremony at Fort Moultrie.

Submitted by Amy Riley, Keyway Editor

The Need for Regional Planning
Addressing challenges while preserving quality of life

June 21, 2005- We have all felt the effects of growth in our community: traffic, congestion, sprawl, etc. The question remains: what can we do about it? Rotarians listened to Rep. Ben Hagood and his ideas about regional planning as a means of tackling the growing pains we are feeling in the Lowcountry.

Rep. Hagood began his talk by thanking all those who have served or whose families have served the public, which he paralleled to our Rotary motto of “Service Above Self.” He then talked briefly about how he became involved in politics because he wanted to serve the area where he is from. His district currently includes parts of Mt. Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island and the Isle of Palms. His district, Mt. Pleasant in particular, is one of the fastest-growing regions in the state, and Mt. Pleasant is, by some accounts, the 4th largest municipality in SC. Hagood quoted reports that forecast growth of 250,000 people in the next 30 years!

Obviously, we have to be thinking of how to plan for this many people and where they are going to live, work and raise their families. We feel the effects of this growth everyday when we drive Johnnie Dodds Boulevard or take our kids to overcrowded schools. But how can we address these challenges while maintaining the quality of life that draws so many people here in the first place? Hagood believes the answer lies in regional planning.

So what does that mean for our region? The Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester region (BCD) currently has 35 arms of local government, each creating and implementing their own plans and ordinances. To think regionally, we must not worry only about what our municipality is doing, but what others are doing and how they might affect us. Hagood stated he is working on several initiatives at the state level to assist local governments in planning with more of a regional focus. He favors a “bottoms-up” planning approach, meaning that local governments and citizens make their own decisions (such as land use), but they are coordinated at the regional level with the assistance of Hagood has worked on the Infrastructure Priority Investment Act (IPIA), which is intended to alleviate conflict between local governments over land use decisions. The IPIA has the following tenets: 1) to coordinate with adjacent jurisdictions and other relevant jurisdictions such as school districts, public service districts, utilities and transportation agencies; 2) to identify priority infrastructure investment areas where development and community facilities are recommended to be directed; and, 3) to include a specific transportation element in the local comprehensive plan.

The bill allows local governments to continue to plan on their own, but requires that they coordinate with other governmental entities. The bill stalled and was re-filed with some provisions added for incentives for developers who build Traditional Neighborhood Design (TND) projects, and incentives for affordable housing.

Another tool mentioned by Hagood that may assist with regional planning includes “donut hole zoning authority,” where comprehensive zoning plans deal with pockets of municipalities that remain in one jurisdiction while the surrounding area are part of another. This is prevalent East of the Cooper where parts of the community are within Mt. Pleasant’s jurisdiction and parts remain in Charleston County. Other tools include annexation law reform and user fees.

Although many questions are left to be answered, Hagood believes that the only way to get the dialogue started is to address these issues and start planning for our future now. Hagood also reflected on his time in the State House, and let us in on his “Five P’s of Politics” which stands for People, Principles, Policies, Pork and Power. All of these are necessary for politics to work the way it is supposed to, but never forget the most important is People.

Submitted by Amy Riley, Keyway Editor