James Etter, a Columbia businessman and financial fix-it executive, will be the new head of the state's tax agency, the Department of Revenue.

Gov.-elect Nikki Haley announced Etter as her pick Wednesday.

She said Etter, who has more than 30 years of accounting experience, will help her reform the state's tax structure, reach out to small businesses to help with their tax issues, and ensure businesses are in tax compliance.

'He knows his goal is making small businesses stronger but also keeping everyone in compliance,' said Haley, who noted his role in helping turn around pharmaceutical maker

Abbott Laboratories in North Chicago in the late '70s.

Most recently, Etter, 68, worked as vice president and chief financial officer of Columbia's Norco Equipment, a maker of forestry equipment. He also has served as chief financial officer for the Thermal Engineering Corp., a Columbia-based manufacturing company that supplies Boeing and BMW, and the Young Pecan Shelling Co. in Florence, one of the nation's largest pecan processors.

In 2004, Etter was appointed by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to oversee day-to-day operations during the liquidation of HomeGold Financial Inc., a Lexington-based company that collapsed, producing several criminal trials and convictions.

'Jim is a very seasoned veteran of the corporate world,' said Ken Wingate, a Columbia tax attorney and chairman of the S.C. Commission on Higher Education who has known Etter for more than a decade. 'He has the speciality of moving in and taking over a distressed company and bringing it back around. He really has been a CEO and CFO for hire in a professional sense of the word.'

Etter, a Blythewood resident, said he will work to create an open-door policy at the agency for the state's employers and employees, while assisting legislators in luring new employers to South Carolina.