You may have heard the phrase “government can’t do it alone.” From the space program to COVID vaccine distribution, the federal government has relied on partnerships with private industry (public-private partnerships, or P3) to accomplish some of our country’s most impressive feats.

Local government can’t always do it alone, either. They don’t always have the resources, expertise or capacity to manage every aspect of large-scale projects. That’s why the Community Foundation has partnered with several area governmental entities on large projects, from culture to infrastructure to recovery, that have improved our quality of life in the Lowcountry.

One of our first public-private partnership projects, started in 2010, was the Public Art Exhibition. We worked with the town of Hilton Head Island to bring a biennial, large-scale sculpture exhibition to the region. Over the course of seven years, three exhibitions were held, drawing artists and visitors from across the country. Our Public Art initiative moved fully under the town’s purview with the hiring of their director of cultural affairs.

In the early 2000s, the Community Foundation began addressing the issue of failing septic systems on Hilton Head Island’s north end. In 2015, Project SAFE was launched. A P3 that included the Community Foundation, the town of Hilton Head and the public service district, this partnership worked to lay sewer lines in neighborhoods that relied solely on septic systems, then provide grants to low- to moderate-income families to connect to these new sewer lines. Project SAFE is still providing funding for connections for families, and will be for years to come. 

Several counties have partnered with us for their emergency recovery and assistance funds. Both Hampton and Colleton counties established funds after an EF5 tornado ripped through the region in April 2020. Both funds are set up to respond to natural disasters, and the counties rely on our expertise to ensure dollars are raised and distributed appropriately.

In August 2020, the town of Hilton Head was awarded $378,000 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to assist low- to moderate-income families affected by COVID-19. The Town chose to work with us to grant these funds to nonprofit organizations assisting Hilton Head Island residents with rent, utilities, mortgage, food, transportation, childcare, education and other needs. The funds are part of HUD’s Community Development Block Grant Program.

More recently, the town of Hilton Head was awarded $5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). One million dollars of that will be used to respond to the continued needs created by COVID-19. Once again, the town has tapped the Community Foundation as their partner in ensuring the funds are distributed equitably and efficiently.

Several other governmental entities have approached us about partnering with them for future projects, and we’re here to help. Working together to strengthen our communities is a main tenet of our mission.

Scott Wierman is the president and CEO of Community Foundation of the Lowcountry.