The preliminary taxpayer cost of South Carolina’s economic development mission to last week’s Farnborough International Airshow is $106,546, the state Department of Commerce reported Thursday.
The expo is the biggest aerospace industry event of the year as well as Commerce’s biggest marketing effort of the year. The delegation went to recruit aerospace companies to the state, including those that supply Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner factory in North Charleston.
Although no deals have been announced, Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said the trip was successful in laying the groundwork for continued growth of that sector of the state’s economy.
Commerce, which had nine employees at the air show, had meetings with about 50 companies, as expected, according to Hitt. Gov. Nikki Haley sat in on 17 of them and attended four receptions, according to a Commerce summary released today.
“We’re very satisfied with the outcome,” Hitt told reporters on a media conference call.
Deputy Secretary George Patrick, who attended the air show instead of Hitt because he is a retired Air Force officer like many aerospace company managers, described a hectic schedule of wall-to-wall appointments Sunday through Tuesday of last week.
“The schedule was intense,” Patrick said. “I’m glad I wasn’t wearing heels.”
The preliminary cost of the Farnborough trip is considerably less than the taxpayer cost of last year’s trip to the Paris Air Show. The S.C. Department of Commerce spent about $158,000 on the Paris mission, and the state’s public-private regional development alliances collectively kicked in another $64,000.
Some criticized last year’s expenditures during a down economy while others defended the outlay as the necessary cost of attracting new business and more jobs to South Carolina.
The Commerce expense total released Thursday is not complete, but Hitt doesn’t expect the final tally, which will be out next month, “to change materially or in any dramatic way.”
It also doesn’t include whatever private money was spent on South Carolina’s behalf, a sum which was up this year over last, Gov. Haley said on a press call from the air show last week.
For instance, the state covered the $25,000 cost of a reception at a Parisian townhouse last year. This year, Michelin’s aviation tire division, based in Greenville, and GKN Aerospace, which announced last fall that it would build a factory in Orangeburg, and other private “partners” paid for the state’s opening reception at the Trinity House in London. Hitt did not say how much that event cost.
Read more in Friday’s editions of The Post and Courier.