S.C. economic development efforts are riding a wave of success
BY PAMELA P. LACKEY
There’s an art to catching a wave. As every surfer or 10-year-old boogie boarder knows, it takes timing, a vision for the future, and a willingness to commit. South Carolina’s economic development leaders have our state well-positioned for a long ride on the newest job-creation wave: manufacturing.
That would not be possible without the strong pro-investment public policy climate carefully created by the General Assembly over many years. Its recognition that business growth benefits citizens, coupled with aggressive recruitment programs and creative initiatives, have consistently proven effective. As a result, the pieces are in place for an economic resurgence in South Carolina.
The Department of Commerce and local economic development alliances are capitalizing on that climate. In just over a year and a half, the team of Gov. Nikki Haley and Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt, working closely with regional economic development organizations, is on track to have the greatest economic impact on this state in the last 20 years.
As The Post and Courier has reported, the Lowcountry is already feeling this impact. According to the Brookings Institute, over the past two years manufacturing jobs grew by a greater percentage in Charleston than in any other large metropolitan area in the country.
Soon after taking office, Hitt said his priority was attracting “wealth-creating” manufacturing jobs to South Carolina. Since then, he’s proven remarkably adept at snaring the economic development projects which deliver jobs to our state.
Bridgestone’s announcement last fall that it will invest $1.2 billion and create 850 new jobs represents the most significant announcement thus far. Other sought-after projects have included ZF Group, First Quality Tissue, Continental Tire, Britax Child Safety, Amazon, Encore Container, TD Bank, GKN Aerospace and BMW and Michelin expansions. South Carolina stands to eventually gain more than 10,000 jobs, in addition to those created by Boeing.
While several headline-grabbing announcements have been in the Upstate, every region has been involved. Recent Lowcountry announcements include:
» A $19.5 million expansion of Cummins Turbo Technologies’ operations in Charleston County, creating 76 jobs;
» A $10 million investment by PyroTec Inc. to establish a new domestic and global headquarters in Charleston County, creating 75 jobs and;
» A $16 million expansion of LowCountry Biomass’ manufacturing operation in Jasper County, creating 26 jobs.
If anyone wonders what the future holds for S.C. manufacturing, look no further than the first glistening Dreamliner to roll off the new Boeing assembly line in North Charleston. The aircraft tells the world that “Made in South Carolina” is a mark of quality and craftsmanship.
Our successes are attracting national attention. Area Development magazine just named South Carolina the winner of the 2012 Gold Shovel award for economic development efforts last year. We also received the Project of the Year award for the $500 million, 1,700-job Continental Tire recruitment. An essential element in modern manufacturing is advanced, reliable communications. In a globally connected economy, it is not uncommon for members of a project team to be located in different time zones or countries.
Meeting the needs of our customers and helping the S.C. economy get back on track drive AT&T’s ongoing investments here. Over the past four years, we have invested more than $950 million in our S.C. wireless and wireline networks, improving our mobile broadband coverage, as well as the overall quality and performance of our networks and advanced services. In 2011 alone, our 960 wireless network upgrades included activating new cell sites, deploying faster fiber-optic connections to more than 550 cell sites and adding an extra layer of wireless frequency — much like adding lanes to a highway to move more traffic faster.
Investments like these are the direct result of state leaders who have worked to ensure a public policy climate that encourages economic growth and job creation by private industries.
As the General Assembly, Gov. Haley and Secretary Hitt continue their efforts to revitalize the state’s manufacturing economy, we must continue to emphasize the importance of decreasing the dropout rate while increasing graduations at the high school, community college and university levels. The new jobs which are being created require strong minds, diversity of thought, and an ability to continue learning and embracing ever-changing technologies.
We must also continue to modernize our port system, one of our most valuable economic development tools.
South Carolina’s Economic Development team is scoring major economic development wins and showing no signs of slowing down. With manufacturing an indispensable component of South Carolina’s future, that’s great news.
Pamela P. Lackey is president of AT&T-South Carolina.