South Carolina Commerce issues report about Paris Air Show trade mission

South Carolina sent a 16-member delegation to the 50th Paris Air Show last week promote the state to aerospace employers. The Charleston region sent two representatives. (AP/Remy de la Mauviniere)

A summary of South Carolina’s mission to the Paris Air Show released today does not say how much the economic development efforts cost the state and offers few specifics beyond what was reported in advance of last week’s expo.

The report from the S.C. Commerce Department confirms the state’s 16-member delegation conducted 81 meetings over the course of the week but does not reveal any names “to protect the competitive nature of these meetings.”

Commerce paid for its nine representatives’ transportation and accommodations at The West End Hotel in Paris, according to the report, noting the state got “group rates.” But the seven regional economic development officials who attended the biennial event paid their own way, according to the report, and private sector donations covered both the state’s main networking event at its expo booth and will pay a portion of the space and design costs for that booth.

“Total taxpayer cost is estimated to be less than the 2012 Farnborough Air Show,” the report stated. “Final costs will be calculated once all invoices have been received and paid.”

The state has been sending a delegation to the biennial European air shows since 2005.

In comparison to the last couple of years, the state’s delegation to Paris this month was smaller and included less star power. Gov. Nikki Haley did not make the trip for the first time during her term, instead attending to typical in-state business. George Patrick, the state’s deputy commerce secretary, George Patrick led the group.

But the mission fit in more meetings, with companies and aerospace organizations, at less cost to taxpayers. Last year, the 30-member delegation to the aerospace expo outside London conducted about 50 meetings, and the overall public cost of that mission was about $97,000, according to Commerce.

Haley faced criticism for the high costs of the state’s mission to the 2011 event in Paris. The state spent some $158,000 that year, including $25,000 on a reception for prospective corporate immigrants at a historic Paris townhouse.

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Previewing this year’s event, S.C. Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said, in contrast to previous “meet-and-greets,” the scheduled meetings last week were more advance-stage “meetings for final deal discussions,” which he called “a good sign.”

In addition to providing a venue for manufacturers like Boeing to show off their products and announce orders, the show is a major opportunity for government officials to court companies and jobs.

South Carolina, which was one of more than 20 states represented at the expo, has tried to leverage Boeing’s growing North Charleston 787 Dreamliner plant to convince other manufacturers and suppliers to join the state’s aerospace industry.

Reach Brendan Kearney at 937-5906 and follow him on Twitter at @kearney_brendan.