European trip a sound investment
The Sept. 4 Post and Courier article about the June trade and economic development meetings I attended in Europe painted a grossly inaccurate picture. Here are some things your readers should know.
I spend a large part of every single day encouraging businesses to come to South Carolina. Economic development is a critically important job for any governor, and one I take very seriously. I'm pleased to report that we've had a good deal of success this year, from Amy's Kitchen bringing 700 jobs to Greenville, to Masonite investing $14 million in Denmark, to recruiting the Royal Bank of Canada to save the Heritage golf tournament in Hilton Head, and many others. With nearly 11 percent unemployment in our state, every job matters, and I'll fight for each one of them.
In all cases, I look not only at whether we're bringing good jobs to our state, but importantly, whether our taxpayers are getting a good deal. I oppose economic-development efforts that really only amount to corporate welfare giveaways that punish our in-state businesses by giving deals to their out-of-state competitors. Instead, we're looking for companies that will generate additional capital investment and jobs and create lots of spin-off opportunities for local businesses and entrepreneurs.
When it comes to traveling abroad to help recruit foreign-based companies, the same calculation holds. In my eight months as governor, I have taken one overseas trip. That was a trip in June to Paris to attend the largest aerospace conference in the world, and to Munich to visit some of the largest manufacturing companies in Europe.
Aerospace and manufacturing play huge roles in South Carolina's economy: Boeing is a major employer and investor in our state, and it had a large presence at the Paris conference; BMW, another large employer in our state, has its headquarters in Munich. I would have been remiss in my duties as governor if I did not put South Carolina's best foot forward in those venues and meet with their key executive teams.
It's completely legitimate to ask whether South Carolina got its money's worth from this trip, or from any other taxpayer-paid travel. There are two ways that I look at the return on investment. The first analysis is new business deals. It is rarely the case that you meet business leaders and agree to a deal right on the spot. These things take time, and announcements cannot be made prematurely; otherwise, the deals will be sunk. So we have to do the hard work of negotiations over weeks and months, instead of the easy work of press interviews. I am hopeful that several good deals will come from this trip, any one of which would mean millions of dollars to our state, and hundreds and potentially thousands of jobs.
Second, in addition to big job announcements, there are the seeds that are planted for future business. At a conference with 2,000 international exhibitors making the case for their products or locations, the quality of your presentation makes a difference. I know South Carolina made a very strong showing, because South Carolina was the buzz of the show, as countless company executives have told me. I'm convinced that this will pay dividends for our job recruitment efforts well into the future.
Now, none of this means that when we're recruiting big dollars, we shouldn't also watch our pennies. It's fun for a reporter to write about an invitation that touts "delicious French cuisine," but believe me, I'll take South Carolina barbeque any day over French delicacies.
The fact is, we took care to cut our costs. We got BMW to provide transportation for a majority of the trip, saving taxpayers thousands. Each participating South Carolina economic development alliance contributed to the cost of the trip, thereby reducing state dollars. Our schedule was jam-packed with meetings from early morning until late at night. We invited The Post and Courier along to report on the entire trip and see for itself how we conducted ourselves. Unfortunately, it chose not to join us.
Economic development trips abroad don't come up all that often, and in truth, they are just a small part of our ongoing, daily efforts to boost the South Carolina economy.
But when good opportunities arise to recruit foreign businesses to our state, I'm going to take them. I'm convinced that the gain for our people makes them worthwhile.
Nikki Haley is governor of South Carolina.