Boeing helps lift state's 'growth potential'

Boeing Co. is expected to roll out its first locally made 787 in 2012. This one was built in Everett, Wash., and flown last month to an airshow in Britain.

Boeing Co. saw the region's economic potential, and others are following suit.

Business Facilities, a national publication that provides site-selection information to companies scouting new locations, put South Carolina at the top of its list for "Economic Growth Potential" through its annual state ranking report.

The lion's share of the credit goes to Boeing's decision last fall to build a $750 million, 3,800-worker passenger jet assembly line at Charleston International Airport. The ranking said that investment "cements South Carolina's status as a top-tier aerospace player, providing the basis for tremendous growth potential in coming years."

The Palmetto State also made the list for "Best Business Climate," "Automotive Manufacturing Strength" and "Alternative Energy Industry Leaders," probably a partial nod to the $98 million Clemson wind turbine test facility planned for the former Navy base.

Moot point

The legal skirmish that flared up between Toyota and a Texas-based car-selling giant that was angling to buy Gene Reed's local automotive sales business has been snuffed out. In its latest quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Group 1 Automotive Inc. disclosed the previously reported fact that it had been sued last month in U.S. District Court in Charleston by Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc.

The dispute stemmed from the June announcement by Reed that he had struck a $70 million-plus deal to sell to Group 1 his Gene Reed Toyota & Scion operation in North Charleston and his Lexus of Charleston in West Ashley.

Toyota responded to this tidbit with a federal lawsuit seeking to block the sale, saying Group 1, its third-largest source of sales in the country, was contractually ineligible to purchase additional dealerships. It alleged that the U.S. dealer's operations did not meet all performance criteria. The Japanese car giant did not specify any particular shortcomings.

The issue was put to rest when Reed later announced he was selling the business instead to Charlotte-based car mogul Rick Hendrick's Hendrick Automotive Group for more than $80 million. Subsequently, and before Group 1 could file an answer to address the claims, Toyota dismissed the complaint.

Hitting turbulence

Time is money, as Boeing is well aware.

The aviation giant, which is running more than two years late in delivering its first 787 jet, is under growing pressure from National Aviation Co. of India Ltd. to make up for the delay, according to Bloomberg news service. The state-owned company, which controls Air India, originally sought $710 million as a compensatory late fee but recently increased that amount to $840 million, Bloomberg reported last week.

The reason, according to the report, is that the airline "lost the opportunity to introduce more fuel-efficient aircraft, it had to continue leasing jets at a high cost, and the company was saddled with additional interest burden on the pre-delivery payments it made for the planes."

Air India, the emerging country's largest airline, has ordered 27 Dreamliners, which were supposed to start arriving in September 2008.

The dispute could put a chill on the festivities in 2012 when an Air India entourage is expected to travel to North Charleston to pick up one of its 787s. The carrier reportedly will be the first recipient of a South Carolina-made Dreamliner.

Park place

The Charleston Parks Conservancy will hold a second meeting -- this one scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 30 at Mason Preparatory School, 56 Halsey Blvd. -- to discuss proposed improvements for the land between Colonial Lake and the Ashley River.

That land includes the aging, 221-unit Sergeant Jasper apartment complex, Moultrie Playground and a vacant parcel of land that sits where Lockwood Boulevard bends into Broad Street. The surrounding neighborhood has worked on design plans for several years that would spruce up the area, but the latest plan calls for a possible real estate swap between the city of Charleston and The Beach Co. , which owns 6 acres that encompass the apartment building and some vacant land.

The details of the plan are available online at www.charlestonparksconservancy.org. Click on "Parks Renovation" under the "What We Do" tab.

Fresh turnover

Baked Charleston dessert shop at 160 East Bay St. in downtown Charleston has changed hands. Previous owners Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito decided to concentrate their efforts on the flagship store in Brooklyn, N.Y., so they sold the shop to Rich and Tracey Ditizio, who recently relocated to the Charleston area from Palm Beach, Fla., with their two children.