In this column, I usually talk in general terms about economic development in the Bluffton area. Today I am going to highlight a specific Bluffton-Hilton Head startup and how they have grown and evolved through a tremendous amount of hard work and through their partnership with our Don Ryan Center for Innovation.

The company, Elongator Tailgates, is set to begin selling a one-of-a-kind product for major pickup truck manufacturers for current models and older truck models going back for the past 10 years.

There are more than 60 million registered pickup trucks in the United States. The company expects to capture a fair percentage of this market.

The Elongator is a patented product that replaces the factory tailgate. The gate comes with an integrated, folding extension. This extension can lock in two positions. The first, at 180 degrees, will extend the length of the truck bed to help securely and safely carry long loads.

The extension can also lock at 210 degrees. This forms the basis of a loading ramp. Stored inside the Elongator are ramp sections that attach to the extension in multiple locations. These create two loading ramps that provide easy access to the truck bed for wheeled vehicles and equipment such as an ATV, a motorcycle, a riding mower, etc.

The company is also developing additional lifestyle products that securely attach and work in conjunction with the tailgate such as camping equipment, external fuel tanks, tool boxes and football tailgating equipment, just to name a few.

Just two weeks ago the company debuted the product to the automotive industry at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show.

This show is the premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world. It draws the industry’s brightest minds and hottest products to one place.

The show is not open to the general public. It is a trade-only event and only qualified individuals employed within the automotive aftermarket industry are approved to enter.

More than 160,000 people attended the event that featured 2,200 vendors and more than 3,000 new products. I am so pleased to let you know that the Elongator Tailgate won a coveted SEMA Best New Product Award.

This is the equivalent of winning an Academy Award.

As the company launches and grows we expect to see a direct impact in the Town of Bluffton. While it will take a bit of time, there will most likely be some light manufacturing jobs created by the company, in addition to other support and administrative jobs.

The DRCI feels that Elongator Tailgates could be one of the most successful companies to ever come out of the incubator program.

While Elongator Tailgates is getting a lot of industry attention, there are new startups in the incubator program at DRCI that are very promising. Some are keeping things under wraps until their launch, but the quality of the ideas and the dedication and creativity of the people behind these companies never ceases to amaze me.

It is proof of how our town and region are made up of so many wonderful, inventive people.

While the incubator program is full right now, we anticipate one or two openings around the first part of the year. If you or someone you know has an idea for a business, I want you to know that the town has resources available for you to help you get started.

Whether you just need informal advice from the DRCI or have interest in the formal incubator program, please let us know.

Starting a business is tough but we can make it a little easier to navigate.

You can get more information by visiting And if you have interest in the Elongator Tailgate product you can learn more at

Lisa Sulka is the mayor of the Town of Bluffton.