Monday, August 2, 2010

State’s business climate improving

Bluffton Today

The response to the last couple of columns has been tremendous. We are running something like 75 constituent contacts above the weekly average of 350-plus calls, letters or e-mails. Many of these calls included good ideas and productive suggestions from you on matters that make adifference to all of us.

This is in stark contrast to what I am hearing from many of my colleagues in the General Assembly, in that when many of them get feedback from constituents, it is mainly complaints. It makes a tremendous difference in my effectiveness that I have weekly input that is largely productive and adds to the body of ideas in play, and not simply negativity or expressions of frustration. For this, I thank you.

I am in e-mail contact with my pal, Jeff Fulghum, as he makes his way to Afghanistan for another deployment. We recently learned that a Bluffton homeboy, Garratt Boggs, has been wounded in Afghanistan and is currently recuperating at Walter Reed Army Hospital. Garratt grew up on Myrtle Island, graduating Hilton Head High in 1986, and USC Columbia in 1991. Our thoughts and prayers are with Specialist Boggs. We are again reminded that the cost of freedom is always high.

On June 23 of this year, Gov. Mark Sanford signed the Economic Development Competitiveness Act and the business climate in our state immediately became significantly better. The legislation provides, among other things, that a corporation establishing a national headquarters in our state, adding at least 50 new employees performing corporate headquarters related functions, will be exempt from state corporate income tax for 10 years. CareCore, in Bluffton, is an immediate beneficiary of this far-reaching program.

The legislation also revises provisions for fee in lieu of property tax agreements that have been on the wish list of the Lowcountry Economic Roundtable for some time. This one provision that will likely make the difference in several pending negotiations for local business relocations. There is also an incentive program for smaller businesses that want to expand in our area.

The legislation also expands incentives for “life science facilities” as well as companies that want to manufacture solar energy technology, wind turbines, advanced ion or other battery technology for alternative motor vehicles. This is done through the S.C. Renewable Energy Tax Incentive Program, a flexible and forward-looking entity that should go along way toward making our state a player in new, cutting edge industries.

The idea here is to pull in the high-tech industry, which is generally higher paying and more stable than much of our more traditional tourism and retirement-related job base. This is not to say we are moving away from hospitality and tourism as economic drivers, we simply need to diversify and deepen our economy. With proper incentives and management, the newer industries, being more environmentally sensitive, should serve to create local jobs as more companies move south to enjoy our good weather and great natural amenities.

What we are attempting to do with the Economic Development Competitiveness Act is to create an attractive business climate through tax incentives and thoughtful, enlightened regulation, that will build upon our educated workforce, transportation infrastructure, and great cultural and natural resources to encourage clean, forward looking businesses to take agood look at South Carolina.