By Barney Blakeney
The Lowcountry Alliance for Model Communities (LAMC) has been working quietly, but effectively to serve as good stewards of the $4 million S.C. State Port Authority allocated as mitigation to the seven communities adjacent to the new SPA terminal being built at the former Charleston Naval Base in North Charleston. Executive Director Omar Muhammad said the past two years have been productive.
In late 2016, LAMC signed an agreement with Palmetto Railways that allocates $3 million for the construction of a new community center to replace the old Sterrett Hall at the former Charleston Naval Base. Most significantly in 2017 LAMC purchased 40 properties in Union Heights, Chicora/Cherokee and Accabee to jump start its affordable housing component for the organization’s community land trust initiative. Eventually the initiative will offer homeownership opportunities to residents of those communities. LAMC still is acquiring properties, but hopefully by next year some construction will begin, Muhammad said. Also in 2017 LAMC received a mini-grant enabling it to conduct small repairs to owner/occupied homes in its communities.
On the economic development side LAMC has created a micro-loan program managed by the Local Development Corporation to make loans ranging from $2,500-$50,000 to eligible disadvantaged businesses which operate and hire employees who live in the LAMC communities. LAMC currently is accepting applications for loans, Muhammad said. The program wants to focus its resources on minority contractors, he said. LAMC has negotiated a deal to commit 15 percent of the total spending for the construction of the port authority’s facility to minority contractors. Technical assistance will be made available to those businesses, he said. For information email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
With an eye on the future, LAMC this year will provide four $2,500 scholarships to high school graduates from the LAMC communities. Additionally LAMC will award two $2,000 scholarships to graduates pursuing careers in transportation related fields. Ten summer internships for high school and college students living in the LAMC communities already have been filled with businesses in transportation related industries. And LAMC is providing funding for six 9th, 10th and 11th grade students to attend a four-week college prep and transportation studies course at Benedict College in Columbia this summer.
Muhammad said in 2017 LAMC awarded over $10,000 to organizations in the LAMC communities to conduct various projects.