Religious broadcaster hasn't delivered on promises

INDIAN LAND, S.C. _ Condos. Shops. Outdoor concerts. Internships to prepare students for careers in broadcasting.

All were to be part of the Inspiration Networks' 93-acre City of Light.

Or so South Carolina and Lancaster County officials thought when they gave their blessing _ along with at least $5 million in incentives _ to the religious broadcaster.

More than five years after unveiling its plans, however, Inspiration has delivered on few of its development promises, leaving Lancaster officials disappointed as they try to revive a county with 19 percent unemployment.

Today, the City of Light campus is home to two buildings _ both nonprofit projects that don't pay county property taxes.

The fast-growing network, with nearly $80 million in annual revenue, has yet to bring any of the for-profit ventures it promised. County officials now question whether those pieces will ever be built.

"I know we're having some tough times. Everybody is," said county councilman Jack Estridge. "But a deal's a deal."

Economic development experts, meanwhile, say that South Carolina officials made costly mistakes when they agreed to provide incentives to lure the nonprofit network away from its home in Charlotte.

The organization moved its headquarters just 14 miles, a change that experts say is unlikely to boost the local economy.

"It's very dubious," said Ernie Goss, an economic development expert at Creighton University in Omaha. " . . . You'd be hard-pressed to find an economist to find a justification for this."

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