COLUMBIA -- The scene was anything but a well-scripted business announcement for Gov. Mark Sanford.
The uniform company wasn't actually creating new jobs but expanding into a new location in Lexington. During the announcement, a noisy garbage truck operated nearby.
But Sanford liked the setting, even the garbage truck, because he wanted to make a point about the real world of small business and how conditions are improving.
The visit was one of five events last week on the governor's public schedule, which hasn't been especially heavy since announcing in December that he wanted to "finish strong" during his last year in office, focusing on economic development.
In fact, most weeks his public schedule shows five events or fewer. Last week's was stronger than most in visits tied to businesses or economic development announcements, according to the schedules.
In many weeks there are days with nothing on his public schedule. Many weeks are peppered with civic club appearances, legislative receptions, bill signings, cabinet and State Budget and Control Board meetings and five-minute "Open Door After Four" visits with citizens.
Sanford, however, says the schedule isn't indicative of his work as governor nor his private efforts at wooing new businesses, expansions or jobs to the state. And he argues the results speak for themselves.
"You don't ever finish in the world of economic development," he told The Greenville News. "It is a continual contest. But I think the question is 'are you advancing relative to other states,' and I think the numbers absolutely show that."
Far from cruising until the end of his term next January, the 49-year-old governor said that he is working hard to improve the state's economy, jobs picture and business climate.
Lawmakers are split on whether they think he is finishing strong.
"I think maybe he's being more successful," said House Speaker Pro Tem Harry Cato of Travelers Rest. "I just think it's too early to assess whether it's a strong finish or not."
Sen. John Land, leader of Senate Democrats and an ardent critic of the governor, argues that Sanford remains an outsider in the process, still unable to forge partnerships on issues.
"He really doesn't know how to do it," he said.
Sanford's work ethic was criticized last year after he publicly confessed to an extramarital affair with a woman in Argentina following a secret five-day trip to the country.
Sanford said repeatedly afterward that he wanted to remain in office to work on his goals, including economic development.
The challenges were immense: 12 percent unemployment, a $500 million projected budget shortfall, an empty unemployment trust fund that forced the state to borrow $700 million from the federal government and a gloomy economic forecast.
While the state's unemployment rate has seen no decrease and its budget problems remain, Sanford said there is plenty of good news on the economic front:
--Three 1,000-job announcements have been made since October, including Boeing in North Charleston, Proterra in Greenville and Red Ventures in Lancaster County.
--The state has received commitments for 82 projects from October through March with the addition of 11,800 new jobs, more than the totals of three southeastern states for all of last year.
--South Carolina ranks ninth in the nation in labor force growth, 15th in the nation in employment growth.
--Two companies last week announced locations in Marion County and Lake City, two of the state's most hard-hit areas, to start facilities tied to Boeing.
"I think some very good things are happening," Sanford said. "I would simply say, 'Stay tuned.' The fruits of some of those conversations will be forthcoming here shortly."