Gov. Nikki Haley, Commerce Department name Lowcountry Produce founders 'SC Ambassadors'

Dwight and Martha Garrett, founders of Lowcountry Produce in Lobeco and investors in historic downtown Beaufort through the new Lowcountry Produce Market & Café, earned a new title this month: South Carolina Ambassadors for Economic Development.Gov. Nikki Haley and Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt celebrated the Garrett’s achievements April 17 as part of South Carolina’s Industry Appreciation Week.  The awards ceremony recognized 51 individuals from all 46 South Carolina counties who contributed to economic development in their local communities.

The Garretts, together with their sons, have operated their family farm in Lobeco for decades. In 2006, the Garretts started up a canning and preserving operation, expanding their produce stand to a fully functioning food processing, packaging and distribution facility right from the family’s farm.

Today, Lowcountry Produce delivers small-batch, handmade, hand-packed products to customers worldwide. The Garrett’s sons, Noel Garrett and Dwight Garrett and business partner, Seabury Thorp, in July 2011 leased the former Beaufort Post Office and City Hall.

Then, Lowcountry Produce Market & Café opened earlier this year on the corner of Carteret and Craven streets. The company has been highlighted by The New York Times and Oprah Winfrey for its homegrown and hand-packed items.  “For years, Beaufort residents have asked for a fresh market downtown. The Garretts brought that and much more when they opened Lowcountry Produce Market & Café in our historic city,” Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said. “It’s a wonderful addition to Beaufort.”

Redevelopment of the former Beaufort City Hall and others structures allows the city to capitalize on the assets of existing structures, giving entrepreneurs like the Garretts the opportunity to further invest in their local economy, the Commerce Department noted.  In most communities across the state, small businesses continue to play an important role in job creation, according to the Department of Commerce. Small businesses employ 750,147 South Carolinians, or about 49 percent of all people employed by private industry in the state.

Jon Verity, chairman of the Beaufort Redevelopment Commission, lauded the Garretts’ recognition by Gov. Haley and the Commerce Department. The Redevelopment Commission helped market the former Post Office and City Hall for adaptive re-use and worked closely with the Garrett family.  “They did an incredible job renovating the building, and from what I’ve seen, they’ve done a remarkable job with their market and deli,” Verity said. “We need to encourage more of this type of infill development, especially as Beaufort moves forward into its fourth century.”

Small businesses make up a large proportion of the manufacturers in the state. More than 3,200 manufacturers are considered small businesses, which represent more than 88 percent of all manufacturers in the state, and those firms employ 70,000 state residents.  “Economic Development starts first and foremost on the ground level,” S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell said. At the April 17 celebration, he said, “we recognized some outstanding Palmetto State business leaders as Ambassadors for Economic Development because of their hard work to advance the unified economic goals we share for South Carolina. The most valuable economic development resources our state has are those businesses that operate and succeed in the private sector every day.”
As South Carolina’s leading economic development agency, the Department of Commerce works to recruit new businesses and help existing businesses grow.

A BIG Beaufort congrats to the Garretts!