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Letter: Don't fail to market to retirees

Posted: May 25, 2018 12:46 p.m.
Updated: May 29, 2018 1:00 a.m.

Two years ago, SmartAsset, a personal finance technology company headquartered in New York City that uses financial modeling to power advice on major financial decisions evaluated 10 South Carolina cities from Hilton Head to Aiken to Myrtle Beach in terms of the best recreational and social opportunities for retirees, and ranked Camden number one. This rating was before the stunning transformation of our City Arena and our fantastic tennis and pickleball complex (thank you, City Manager Mel Pearson and city council).

In that same time period, two fully-funded planned retirement living developments here (one an assisted living facility for 85 residents near the hospital) that would have brought in about 400 retirees and revitalized the northern business district were effectively stopped in their tracks by a few local residents determined to stop growth, citing the possibility of increased traffic, the loss of trees and too much residential density. A most unfortunate lack of vision on their part, the mantra being if it’s not near-to-perfect, destroy it.

The fact is, this city needs at least another thousand people for its retail businesses, restaurants, cultural institutions and non-profits to prosper and thrive. A population of 10,000 would be ideal. Given that the rush to retirement from North to South usually involves seniors wanting to live at the beach, it’s unlikely that Camden will see great hordes arriving en masse. That said, we have something almost indefinably magnificent in the tone and the temper of the people living here. It’s truly Brigadoon. More to the point, as the May 25 Chronicle editorial points out, retirees put no burden on the schools, tend to shop locally and are usually more in need of medical care than their younger counterparts. Yes, a win-win.

The driving question: Who’s going to market this city where we have a house for every budget? If the realtors will not rise to the challenge, who then? Cannot the city’s Office of Economic Development and the realtors-in-agreement work out a strategic plan? Some realtors I’ve spoken to claim we do not yet entertain enough amenities. When Del Webb began his monumentally successful retirement empire, Sun City, Ariz., (full disclosure: my mother-in-law lived there) they had far fewer amenities than we do here.

If we don’t get to it, we will have lost a watershed opportunity. We need to recognize a defining moment staring us in the face. I urge the realtors to meet, carve out a strategic marketing plan, and then approach the city and county for collaborative funding and planning.

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