By Chuck Crumbo
Published July 19, 2012
S.C. Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said Thursday that there are a number of projects in the queue and expects a “very healthy third and fourth quarter” of economic development announcements.
S.C. Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt
“We do have a remarkable number of projects in house,” Hitt said. “We are attracting more projects on a monthly basis than has been the historical case.”
Despite a sluggish economy and uncertainty surrounding the upcoming presidential election, Hitt said he expects activity to pick up during the second half of the year.
“I think all of you know we are at a time in the economy when there is a lot of forward-looking, but also some slowness in decision-making as people anticipate where the economy is going to be in 2013 and what their needs are going to be,” Hitt said. “We feel pretty strongly that it’s going to be a very healthy third and fourth quarter for the year. … We do have a very strong pipeline.”
Hitt didn’t divulge what deals are in the making. Last year, the state’s biggest deals were revealed in September and October when Bridgestone Americas and Continental Tire the Americas announced separate deals totaling $1.7 billion and creation of more than 2,500 jobs.
Hitt also said that the $10 million the Legislature restored to the agency’s budget in overriding Gov. Nikki Haley’s veto will restore “buckets” of money used for building infrastructure for projects. The money could go toward a range of projects such as building roads and installing utility pipelines, he said.
Haley had vetoed the appropriation, which came out of a national mortgage settlement, arguing that the money should have been used to address the needs of people affected by the mortgage crisis.
“I would never take a position that was not consistent with the governor’s,” Hitt said. “We are all one team here. The General Assembly and governor set policy and we at commerce follow.”
Although the state’s prime competitors for new business — North Carolina and Georgia — have more money for closing deals, Hitt said South Carolina has held its own.
“We’ve done pretty well against them, so I just hold up our track record of the past,” Hitt said. “They well know if they compete against us on a project, that we’re pretty wily.”
The Commerce Department reported 13 people, including Haley, represented the state at the airshow. The estimated cost to the taxpayer will be about $106,500, according to the agency.
South Carolina has attended the airshow since 2005 and the trip has been crucial in building the state’s budding aerospace business, Hitt said.
Initial contact was made with Boeing Co. at the airshow and that led to the investment of the 787 Dreamliner assembly plant in North Charleston.
This year’s trip, which included about 50 meetings with various firms, was aimed at attracting aerospace suppliers to the state, Hitt said.