I still remember the initial presentation the S.C. Department of Commerce put together to be sent to The Boeing Company as it began the process of deciding where the second 787 Dreamliner assembly line would be located. There was no shortage of suitors, and this was our opportunity to make a splash and cement South Carolina’s position as a top-tier pursuer for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Our package opened with a cover letter signed by then-Gov. Mark Sanford, Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint, the six members of the congressional delegation, and every member of the South Carolina Legislature in a position of leadership. It cut across partisan lines, regional differences and showed that our state was unanimous in its support for Boeing and the economic growth it would bring.
South Carolina was speaking with one voice in our pursuit of Boeing and the message we delivered was clear — in South Carolina, we take care of our own. It was that spirit of unity and purpose that played an important role in attracting Boeing to South Carolina. It carried over when the state Senate and House of Representatives unanimously passed an economic incentive package sealing the deal. And today, I hope that spirit of unity will also apply to helping ensure Boeing’s success in South Carolina.
Today, the first of what we all hope will be many Boeing 787 Dreamliners produced in our state will roll out of the production facility at the Charleston Airport. It’s a great accomplishment which is sure to be celebrated by all South Carolinians. However, our state’s effort to make Boeing’s investment in South Carolina a success is not complete.
Eighty percent of the Boeing 787s produced in North Charleston will be sold to overseas customers who routinely use the services of the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank. The banks’ charter will expire at the end of May if Congress does not reauthorize its operations.
Boeing is important to South Carolina and Ex-Im Bank is important to Boeing. In my view, I think that should make it important to everyone who played a role in helping bring Boeing here.
The Ex-Im Bank doesn’t cost American taxpayers and over the past five years has actually made over $3.4 billion for the government. It plays an important role in filling in a financing gap which allows foreign companies to buy American-made products like the 787 Dreamliner.
If Ex-Im is forced to close its doors, South Carolina will lose jobs and the responsibility for those job losses will lie squarely at the feet of those who killed it. But the fight over Ex-Im, particularly for us in South Carolina, is larger than the 6,000 employees who currently work at Boeing. The Port of Charleston, which is our state’s economic gateway to the world, and many in the state’s small businesses focused on exports will suffer as well.
We are fortunate that in South Carolina our factories and workforce are some of the most productive in the world. Exports from our state are rapidly growing and last year they increased 21 percent.
Textiles woven in places like Mauldin and Gaffney make their way from the production facility and eventually through the Port of Charleston for shipment to locations across the globe. Our manufacturing facilities, among them small and family-owned businesses, in places like Lexington and Cheraw, produce American-made products which roll off the factory floor directly to the port for export throughout the world.
The Ex-Im Bank helps facilitate the purchase of these S.C.-made products. That means more business, more jobs here at home, more income and a better standard of living for all South Carolinians.
I support congressional efforts to improve bank operations, but for Congress to suddenly decide to eliminate Ex-Im, which has been in existence since 1934, would be unilateral disarmament by the United States in the competitive global market.
South Carolina would suffer greatly from such a foolish decision.
Joe E. Taylor Jr. served as South Carolina’s secretary of commerce from 2006-2010.