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Bennett should have kept his seat
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In less than a week, the Effingham Industrial Development Authority will have its monthly meeting and its first of 2010. Selection of a chairman will be on the agenda.

Thanks to Rincon City Council.

In a time when the IDA is actively pursuing several prospects in the midst of a sharp and painful recession, having Chap Bennett represent the board was a benefit. He also understood the complex financing the IDA has undertaken in some of its dealings. He also was one of the more experienced members of that board — of the remaining seven, five are in their first term.

But Rincon City Council thought there were communication problems and have replaced Bennett with Leon Zipperer.

The claims of not getting enough communication ring hollow. County commissioners have been frequent visitors to IDA board meetings — only Rincon City Manager Michael Phillips has darkened the IDA’s door for their meetings, and even then, only occasionally.

And the IDA and the Rincon City Council have worked closely on a potential entry point into Tract D of the IDA’s Research Forest Tract. Bennett, as IDA chairman, has been involved in those proceedings. Was there no communication there?

Rincon’s city leaders also cited Bennett’s role as chairman — which should have been viewed as a feather in the cap — might have created problems.

By design, the IDA is supposed to serve the entire community, from Kildare to Marlow, from Egypt to Stillwell — including Rincon. Such a statement that Bennett could not serve Rincon leads to this question:

Does Rincon have other interests that don’t coincide with those of the rest of the community when it comes to economic development?

Bennett took over as chairman after Martin Wilkins stepped down. Wilkins had been part of the negotiations with EFACEC, and Bennett filled that role and proved more than equal to the task. He’s also been keenly involved in the IDA’s continued efforts to recruit industrial prospects in the midst of the nation’s most severe recessions — no easy feat.

And the IDA has been a finalist for several such prospects, including its runner-up finish to land American Titanium Works, known as Project Arx, that eventually chose South Carolina.

Bennett has represented the community as the IDA met with state economic development officials and with prospects. He has worked with the representatives of other development authorities. He has put forth a capable and reasoned face for the community in those dealings.

This is no condemnation of Mr. Zipperer’s faculties. He may well turn out to be a competent and worthy member of the IDA board. But Chap Bennett’s efforts with the IDA over the years needn’t be overlooked, and the Rincon City Council has casually tossed them aside in their short-sightedness.

Rincon Mayor Ken Lee called Bennett “a valuable asset” to the IDA. If that is so — and it certainly was — then he should have retained his seat.