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  • Writer's picturePalmetto Dunes

Doing Things "The Greenwood Way"

Palmetto Dunes Resort was developed by the Greenwood Development Corporation. John Davis served in the Greenwood corporate family for more than 40 years, from his role as an independent auditor for Greenwood Mills to his groundbreaking period as president of Greenwood Development Corporation.

About a decade ago, Mr. Davis — who passed away in 2013 at the age of 80 — was interviewed about the company’s growth and its heritage on Hilton Head Island and the Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort.

JOHN DAVIS: “Not a lot of people are fully aware of the role that Greenwood had in the early days. Charles Fraser had the vision and the foresight to set the stage for how Hilton Head really should be. Charles came to talk to Jim Self, who headed Greenwood Mills, about building a golf course. Charles wanted to build an executive course — but Jim said, “No, Hilton Head needs a championship golf course.”

“Charles went back to the island and was really preaching this idea — but he hadn’t yet started any paperwork. About a week or so later, Charles answered his door, and there was a whole line of construction equipment.

“A gentleman told him, “Mr. Self sent me down here to build your golf course." So we built what is now known as the Ocean Course at Sea Pines, and the stage was set for Charles Fraser’s vision to come true.

We knew and respected the things that Charles Fraser had envisioned. And although we revised the land plan for Palmetto Dunes after our acquisition, we downsized all the density we were allowed and created a more upscale development. That was our goal. When we put the Greenwood name on something, we wanted it to have a quality meaning. We wanted to be a member of the Hilton Head community, and build a neighborhood that everyone would respect.

I feel like we had one of the finest staffs. They were all congenial. They were independent thinkers, which I believe is crucial. You want people who are not flawless, but who are willing to step out and take a lead, take a chance. I encouraged that. Greenwood Development was blessed with those kinds of people.

“We didn’t want to staff up with architects and engineers and the other skilled people you need to run a development company. Instead, we decided to grow a core group of employees, with assigned duties. Then, we’d hire and put on retainer whomever we needed in the local communities, people who knew those communities well. We used engineering firms who knew the politics, for example. We tried to select some of the leading architects in that area. That’s how we put our team together. It worked very well for us.

“Then, when the peaks and valleys of the real estate industry occurred, Greenwood Development had a relatively small full-time staff that we could maintain — we didn’t really have to cut back during the tougher times. We were very careful to try to keep our staff lean, but effective.”

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