Ex-resort owner from Kiawah lists up to $50M in debt (copy)

The Doonbeg golf resort in Ireland's County Clare has never turned a profit. File/Provided

It never turned a profit for the Kiawah Island investors who built it, and it isn’t making money under the ownership of Donald Trump’s company.

The president's golf course along the west coast of Ireland lost about $2.3 million in 2016, according to new documents filed with the Irish government.

The Trump International Golf Links and Hotel in Doonbeg was hurt by a shutdown for 2015 and part of 2016 while the layout was being refurbished. The resort's directors said in a statement that they expect it to turn an "operating profit" in 2017. Those results aren't expected until late 2018.

The Trump Organization bought the former Doonbeg Golf Club and the Lodge at Doonbeg in County Clare for about $20.5 million in early 2014. The swank but remote seaside resort was originally built and owned by an affiliate of Charleston-based Kiawah Development Partners, which was forced to sell it under duress after the property ran up big debts.

The latest losses were first reported by the Irish Times. The newspaper quoted the general manager, who said revenue increased 10 percent in the 2017 and that the resort is enjoying "record green fee business and a steady flow of new members."

Including the latest results, Trump’s Doonbeg resort has lost about $8.8 million in the three years through 2016.

The golf course overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and is considered one of the Europe's best, but has attracted some controversy, too. Trump last month received approval from a local government to build a wall to protect the Greg Norman-designed layout from rising seas. The wall has angered some local residents and environmentalists who say the structure will damage dunes in the area and a public beach, according to the Associated Press.

Business wish list

With the General Assembly returning to Columbia on Tuesday, the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce has put together its legislative priorities for the coming year, with plans to announce the key initiatives during a news conference today featuring some of the state's top business leaders.

Topping the list is the hope that state lawmakers will follow their federal counterparts by reforming tax laws. South Carolina has some of the state's highest property tax rates for manufacturers and commercial businesses, and the chamber says the 7 percent tax rate on personal income over $14,650 is highest in the Southeast. The chamber would like to see both rates lowered.

The chamber also wants legislators to help find solutions to a growing worker shortage. That includes efforts to grow apprenticeship programs through the state's technical college system, exempting military retirement benefits from state taxes to lure more working veterans to South Carolina and expanding policies aimed at integrating former prisoners into the workplace.

"In 2017, our legislators passed a comprehensive solution to repair our state's roads and bridges," Ted Pitts, the chamber's president and CEO, said in a statement. "This year, we ask them to keep our state moving forward by reforming our state tax code and implementing solutions to close the skills gap between qualified workers and available jobs.

"South Carolina has vast potential for growth — from our world-class port to our all-star workforce," Pitts said, adding "we need to ensure that our policies are allowing our state to prosper."

The chamber established its priorities following member surveys, a statewide tour to hear from businesses and input from leaders statewide. Pitts will be joined at Monday's event by: Jack Sanders, president and CEO of SonocoLou Kennedy, president and CEO of Nephron Pharmaceuticals; Mike Willams, facility personnel manager at Michelin North America; and Tim Norwood, president of Bistro Holdings. Members of the chamber's board of directors are also expected to attend the event, to be held at noon in the first floor lobby of the Statehouse.

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Volvo's announcement that it will sped $520 million to expand its still-under-construction manufacturing campus near Ridgeville with a second production line and an office building helped South Carolina earn Business Facilities magazine's State of the Year honors. Wade Spees/Staff/File

Best in the nation

Combined commitments of more than $1.1 billion in manufacturing expansions announced by Volvo Cars and BMW helped South Carolina take the top spot in Business Facilities magazine's annual State of the Year competition.

Swedish automaker Volvo, which is building its only U.S. manufacturing campus off Interstate 26 near Ridgeville, said in September that it will add a second production line and build an office complex as part of a $520 million expansion of its still-under-construction site. At buildout, the $1.1 billion facility will produce a remodeled S60 sedan and the popular XC90 SUV, employing nearly 4,000 people.

Earlier in the year, BMW said it would add 1,000 jobs with a $600 million expansion to its Greer manufacturing site, the German automaker's largest in the world. All told, BMW has spent more than $8 billion over the past 25 years at the site which builds X-model SUVs for global distribution.

"The Volvo and BMW expansions catapult South Carolina into the top tier of U.S. automotive manufacturing hubs," said Jack Rogers, the magazine's editor in chief. "But the Palmetto State also has been busy laying the foundation for sustainable growth across a diversified portfolio of growth sectors."

The magazine also cited South Korean manufacturing Samsung's decision to open a $380 million appliance manufacturing site in Newberry County and Boeing Co.'s debut of the 787-10 Dreamliner — which is built exclusively at the aerospace giant's North Charleston campus — as reasons for South Carolina's top ranking.

Rogers added that the Port of Charleston, which is investing $2 billion in infrastructure improvements to lure large container ships traveling from Asia, "is the crown jewel of a thriving logistics network that makes South Carolina a prime location for new distribution and fulfllment centers."

South Carolina beat out Texas, the top state in 2016, for the most recent honor. 

Business Facilities is a national magazine that targets corporate site selectors and economic development professionals.

Museum mantra

The new leader of the foundation that’s raising money for the National Medal of Honor Museum near the aircraft carrier Yorktown at Patriots Point says he doesn’t see raising the rest of the money as much of a challenge.

"I don’t want to sound cocky, but no," Bill Phillips, the recently named CEO of the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation, said by phone late last week.

Plans for the museum were announced four years ago, and about $18.6 million of the $100 million project has been raised. That’s normal for a project like this, said Phillips, a financial adviser with Morgan Stanley in Menlo Park, Calif.

"For the last four years, we’ve been building the foundation," he said. "Donors want to see specifics. When we go out and talk to foundations we have a very powerful story."

Phillips was elevated from the foundation’s chairman to CEO after Mark Updegrove quit last month to return to the LBJ Museum Foundation in Texas. Half the board, including retired Marine Maj. Gen. James Livingston, a Medal of Honor recipient, quit when Updegrove was hired in February 2017.

"I can accept the fact that people are skeptical," Phillips said. But he noted that it took more than 15 years to raise the money for the International African American Museum in Charleston. Former Mayor Joe Riley announced the vision in 2000, and the final few million is expected to be announced early this year.

"It takes time," Phillips said.

Phillips has relatives living in Mount Pleasant and plans to move to the area next month.

Power surge

On a normal winter day, South Carolina's energy use peaks first thing in the morning when the state wakes up, dials up the thermostat and gets ready for the day. Then it tapers off when millions of people turn down the heat on the way to work and school.

For the state's electric grid, Wednesday was no normal day.

It was a cold morning, so electricity use dialed up quickly — roaring up around 8 o'clock as the Lowcountry and the Midlands faced a bitter cold. Even without a deluge of ice and snow, it would have been one of the biggest energy-use days of the year.

But especially along the coast, it never slowed down. A slick of ice coated roadways early, and flurry after flurry dumped 5 inches of snow on top. Hardly anyone went to work, so they never turned off the heat.

All that after South Carolina Electric & Gas pleaded with customers not to use too much power.

The utility's calls were apparently not heeded: SCE&G says it set an all-time record for electric use during the snowstorm. The power company distributed 103,700 megawatt-hours of electricity across its territory, which runs from the Midlands to the coast.

That surpassed the previous maximum, set in 2014 — a jolt to the company's revenues that was helped by relatively limited power outages throughout the storm.

Of course, that was hardly the biggest story of the day for SCE&G: That distinction belongs to Dominion Energy's announcement that it plans to buy the power company's Cayce-based owner, SCANA Corp. The deal is worth $14.6 billion, including debt.

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Thousands of homes make up Cane Bay Plantation in Berkeley County. File/Wade Spees/Staff

Cane Bay commerce

A growing suburban Charleston community sold more homes in 2017 than the previous year, but it dropped a few notches on a list of the top master-planned communities in the U.S. because sales swelled at several southwestern U.S. communities.

Cane Bay Plantation in Berkeley County, developed by Gramling Brothers Real Estate & Development of Charleston, came in at No. 13 on the Top 50 Master-Planned Communities by John Burns Real Estate Consulting. Last year, it was No. 7.

Cane Bay saw home sales rise 3 percent to 584 last year over 569 in 2016, according to the report. No other community in South Carolina made the annual list.