A project aimed at attracting "creative class" jobs to downtown Rock Hill won support Monday night from a narrow majority of City Council members.
The city will commit $70,000 over two years from an economic development fund to support "The Hive," a center that will provide counsel to aspiring small business owners.
Students will come to The Hive to learn how to become independent contractors in web marketing and web design - areas identified as potential niches for a city wrestling with an unemployment rate above 20 percent.
It's a way to attract young people and establish Rock Hill as a player in the knowledge-based economy, supporters say.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Herald
Opponents took a different view Monday night, arguing the proposal is too big a gamble.
The center, slated to occupy a third floor space in the downtown Citizens building, will be overseen by York Technical College and RevenFlo, a Web-based marketing business located on nearby Caldwell Street.
RevenFlo founder Jason Broadwater is an advocate for downtown revitalization efforts.
"All of the research points to the fact that young people are looking for these kinds of opportunities," Mayor Doug Echols said during a lengthy debate. "This is a relatively small investment on a very worthwhile idea."
But the project brings no guarantees of jobs or tax revenue, noted Councilman Kevin Sutton, who voted against funding for the program along with fellow limited-government advocates Jim Reno and John Black.
"I'm a little uneasy spending this money, from this particular fund, on a start-up gamble," Black said. "It's a hard sell."
Rock Hill must adapt to the changing times and embrace new approaches to land jobs, said Bev Carroll, chair of the city's economic development board.
The Hive sounds unusual, Carroll acknowledged, but it holds lots of potential.
"The businesses of the future are the one- and two-person firms," Carroll said. "It's those kinds of jobs we think are going to be the basis of Old Town."
The program might also encourage young people to stay in Rock Hill after they graduate, said York Tech President Greg Rutherford. If nothing else, it will bring 30 to 40 students to Main Street on a daily basis.
"We hope they bring their lives to Old Town and influence others to do the same," Rutherford said.