Commerce Secretary talks manufacturing
South Carolina and the Lowcountry are in a good position to increase manufacturing, said Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt at the Chamber’s annual Industry Appreciation Luncheon on Tuesday.
But people need to understand that future economic development announcements will have smaller job counts than past announcements, he said.
That’s because companies have learned to do more with less during the tough economy, and they’re going to continue in that streamlined fashion, he said.
Hitt listed 600 jobs in the Summerville area that have been announced since Gov. Nikki Haley took office in 2011.
Manufacturing had been on a 10-year decline in South Carolina in 2011, but the percentage of manufacturing jobs has since begun to increase, he said.
One of Summerville-area announcements was the Showa Denko expansion, which is significant for two reasons: it highlighted that companies already here want to expand their presence here, and it showcases the state’s relationship with Japanese manufacturers.
Japan is the second largest foreign investor in South Carolina, with Germany the largest, Hitt said.
There are some strong prospects out of Japan, Hitt said, which is why Haley and a delegation visited Japan earlier this month.
After the luncheon, County Council Chairman Larry Hargett said he and Showa Denko Carbon CEO Bob Whitten were among the delegation.
Their travel was funded by the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, he said.
Hargett said he and the others met with Showa Denko executives for about an hour and learned more about their worldwide business.
Relationship-building is key to economic development, Hargett and Hitt said.
Hitt said he’s recently worked with some site consultants who hadn’t been to South Carolina in more than 10 years.
Relationships alone aren’t enough, though, he said. Communities need something to sell, and Summerville has “all of the right assets,” he said.
“Companies in today’s economy want desperately to invest their capital and move very quickly. They don’t want to wait until you build the building or run the sewer line,” he said.
Further, they want to envision themselves as part of your community, he said.
“They want to look around and see that other successful businesses are there,” Hitt said.
Dorchester County has 15 available buildings listed in the state database, which is a pretty good number, he said.
The county is also building out its industrial parks, including Winding Woods, which will have a groundbreaking next month.
Hargett said the sewer lines are currently being installed, and the site has already been visited by site consultants.
The groundbreaking is primarily to announce to the world that the site is open for business, he said.