The 43rd South Carolina Trade Conference (SCITC) held at the Wild Dunes Resort on the Isle of Palms, September 12-14 was for the attending delegates (a full house) a lesson in business friendly politics.
It’s an unfortunate fact of corporate life that when thinking about government agencies, what comes to mind is red tape, redundant regulations, and road blocks of all kinds. This is particularly true in the manufacture and international transportation of goods, which are subject to a wide regime of regulatory authorities.
Perhaps the best feature of the SCITC meeting was that it wasn’t focused on the regulatory spaghetti of SOLAS and VGM but on how the South Carolina State government and the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) could help business. This refreshing turn on emphasis is a wake up call to all and was illustrated by SC Governor Nikki Haley herself.
Governor Nikki Haley has been at the forefront, in some cases working directly with, and for, the businesses the State and port are trying to attract. Speaking with a trucking company based out of California, the owner mentioned how shocked he was that the Governor wanted to meet him personally. His initial reaction was “Why would she want to meet with an old trucker?” Eventually he ended up meeting with her, thanks to the persistence of Jim Newsome, President and CEO of SPCA.
Although SOLAS/VGM has been the topic du jour for many recent conferences, the big difference is what the Port Authority did rather than the rehashing of the debate itself. Peter Friedmann, Executive Director of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition (AgTC), applauded the port for its leadership on the SOLAS solution that most ports have now adopted. As Friedmann pointed out, having the ability, and more importantly the desire, to find and implement solutions for the industry is far more important than endless commentary.
This was further evident in the South Carolina Economic Update session in which Robert M. Hitt III was the speaker. Robert M. Hitt III was appointed by Governor Haley to serve as Secretary of Commerce in January of 2011. Previously Hitt worked at the BMW manufacturing plant in Spartensburg, bringing a wealth of economic development experience to the Department of Commerce from the business side. Hitt personally had worked with the previous five commerce secretaries.
Under his leadership, South Carolina has become the leader in economic development, recruiting more than $23 billion in capital investments and 86,000 jobs to South Carolina. Throughout Hitt’s tenure, South Carolina consistently ranked first in the export of passenger motor vehicles and tires. In his explanation of the State’s goals and plans, it was clear that his top priority was making business in South Carolina attractive to all facets of manufacturing and transportation industries. “We go to bat, we bat hard, for our clients,” Hitt claimed, he went on to talk about the success of the many companies that have come to and thrived in the business-friendly South Carolina environment. While the business sectors range from auto manufacturing to aviation and beyond, the State’s ability to support these various activities with a strong infrastructure, skilled labor, and land for growth has helped build a new economy for South Carolina.
In a relatively short time, South Carolina has transformed from a textile and tobacco economy to an automotive, aerospace and tourism state. A transformation made possible by cooperation between all facets of the government, utilities, private business and with the support and vision of the SCPA leadership.
The SCPA also announced a second inland port project to start in the first quarter of 2017 in Dillon, SC. The location in the Northeastern part of the state right on I-95 will assist in opening them into new markets in neighboring states while at the same time expanding their logistics footprint to help grow the port.