Palmetto Plan

Palmetto Plans

February 10, 2019

The Real Life Ventures and Adventures of Trey and Batman

by Trey Nosrac

I picked up my passenger in front of the Cleveland Justice Center. He splashed through the slush on the side of the road and settled into my Prius.

I asked, “How was jury duty? Did you take another criminal off the streets, or are you sworn to secrecy.”

He gave a dismissive flip of his wrist, “Didn’t get called. I just read a book on my iPad and had lunch with two people from the jury pool. Still, it was a good day, it makes you feel patriotic. Same place, same time, tomorrow.”

“Do people recognize you?”

He snapped his seat belt, “Don’t think so, Ohio is a long way from Silicon Valley. Did you pick a place to eat?”

“Yeah, a seafood restaurant, on East 35th named We Got Crabs.”

“Seafood sounds good. Now what’s the location of your allegedly brilliant harness racing business idea? When you dropped me off this morning, you said you would reveal the location and more of your plan.”

I handed him my iPad, which was open to Google maps, and I said, “South Carolina — one of my all-time favorite states. I’ve been there dozens of times. I’d live there if they had a harness track.

“You want to open a racetrack in South Carolina?”

“Not exactly. A racetrack is what you might call a second-tier plan. Our primary plan is tourism and doesn’t depend on gambling. I found the exact location and the wheels are already turning.”

“And the winner is?”

Look at the southern tip, near Hardeeville, on I-95. I’ve stayed there several times. It has lots of open space. Hardeeville has so many benefits for this harness racing idea it’s scary. The weather and the travel demographics that flow through this route would make your jaw-drop. Over one hundred million people visit Florida each year and this is the main artery. Hardeeville is a great stop for the flocks of snowbirds that drive to Florida. They have about 20 hotels and it’s a good place for travelers to catch their breath before pushing on to Florida.”

“You’re after tourists and travelers?”

“Bingo. The first stage is a training facility for harness horses.”

He opened his hands as if he was catching raindrops, “Trey, I was expecting more from you. A training center is nothing new. I think South Carolina already has one in Aiken. They can’t be big money-makers.”

“Ah Grasshopper, listen with open ears. Hardeeville is on the way for people traveling I-95 from Canada to Florida. Hilton Head, Bluffton and Savannah are all within a 30 to 40-minute drive.”

“Still, Trey, a training center is not terribly innovative.”

“Here is where I get innovative and terrible.” I paused for dramatic effect, “This training center will be either on the grounds of, or right next door to, a massive RV park.”

“Interesting.”

I moved in for the kill, “Not just interesting – underway. On Oct. 3, 2018, Hardeeville City Council approved a request by a Florida-based company, Compass RV, to construct a luxury park. The plan is for a 185 acre, upscale park that will have, are you ready for this… 950 spots for RVs. There is a similar park within easy driving distance. Push the link in the bottom right corner of the iPad.”

He did, and read, “Hardeeville Mayor Harry Williams reports, ‘The City Council feels like we did a thorough job in the planning, and we look forward to Compass RV Park coming here. I think it’ll be quite successful.’ Williams said the park could also serve as a stopover location, whether for the night or for longer periods for temporary workers. It will bring in quality people and tourists. Many people drive I-95 from Maine to Florida. A master plan by Thomas & Hutton, the firm representing Compass RV Park, showed the site has two entrances from U.S. 17. Compass RV Park will begin construction in early 2019.”

After he finished reading the online newspaper report, I said, “This Park has big plans for people with big rigs — a general store, swimming pools, dog park, kayaking, amphitheater, bocce, and tennis. It would be simple to build a training track and barns in a corner of those 185 acres or adjacent to the RV land.”

He shrugged, thought for a second, and then said, “I can envision wealthy people with disposable income and time on their hands, strolling out of their RV’s with a cup of coffee and watching horses train. Yes, this could have some spillover benefits for the sport. Having new visitors in an unthreatening environment with the magic of horses and the self-discovery aspect might start some sparks and create some fans for your sport. But the money does not seem to work for investors.”

I nodded. “Agreed. This first phase would be red ink, not a ton of money. After all, a nice training center is not like building a New York Skyscraper or inventing self-driving cars. The location is the key. I could give you plenty of statistics on the cost, the traffic or the wealth of the audience. Or I could just make some up. But the upscale RV market is a monster. The second phase, in a year or two, is where the red ink would turn black.”

“You sound confident.”

“Always am. My last words will probably be, ‘Damn, that didn’t work out like I thought it would.’”

“Give me your black ink projection, your upside, your back end.”

I pulled into an open slot in front of the restaurant. “The deck pitch financials will circle back to some nonsense you are always talking about. I got more charts and numbers on my iPad.”

“Sheesh, Trey, you sound very professional.”

“I know, you ruined me.”

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