Economic Development Luncheon highlights growth
By Melissa Rollins, Editor, email@example.com
During the Greater Hartsville Chamber of Commerce’s first Economic Development Luncheon, attendees heard about the constant efforts to bring more development to South Carolina, the Pee Dee Region and Darlington County.
John Sweeney, Director of Business Development for the North Eastern Strategic Alliance (NESA) spoke about the ways that he uses current successful businesses to promote the region and what it has to offer.
“We want to let companies know…that this is the best place in the world to live and to do business; that is the message that we are carrying out when we travel across the country and around the world,” Sweeney said. “Roger Schrum was interviewed by our marketing department for a series of videos that we did that are up on our website. Roger was talking about why Sonoco enjoys doing business in northeast corner of the state. I take this quote with me wherever I go.”
Sweeney said that having a company like Sonoco headquartered in Hartsville, South Carolina makes other businesses take notice.
“(In that video) Roger said ‘We love this place; that’s why we’re here. We could be anywhere we want to be in the world, anywhere in the United States, any major community. We choose to be in northeast South Carolina.’ That does my job for me,” Sweeney said. “When you have someone from a company like Sonoco saying that and I can take that quote into boardrooms around the country and around the world that speaks volumes. The fact that a company like Sonoco chooses to do business here, and stay here, it does a couple of things. It shows the viability of an area. It also shows that suppliers and people who do business with companies like that are welcome to come here.”
Mandy Brawley, Deputy Director of Global Business Development at South Carolina Department of Commerce, was the keynote speaker for the event. Brawley spoke about the ways that South Carolina’s industries have changed over the years.
“In 1990, 353,000 South Carolinians were employed in manufacturing,” Brawley said. “That’s more than 20 percent of the state’s labor force. Of those, 136,000 were employed in textile manufacturing. Then in the 90’s a transformation began to occur. In 1992 everything kind of changed for South Carolina; that is when BMW announced plans for its Spartanburg facility. That changed the way people looked at our state. It changed the world’s perspective of the South and especially South Carolina.”
When BMW arrived, Brawley said, that put South Carolina on the map like never before.
“BMW’s arrival sparked an influx of advanced manufacturing companies in the state,” Brawley said. “We became a much more diverse state. A diverse high-tech economy developed. Now some of the names that we have here, it really remarkable: BMW, Boeing, Mercedes, Michelin, Bridgestone Tires, Samsung.”
Though not all of these companies create a huge influx of jobs, Brawley said, sometimes their investment drives others to consider locating in South Carolina.
“Even though some of these companies are not that big, in terms of the number of jobs they have here, just the names gives us such recognition all around the world,” Brawley said. “Everyone knows us because of these companies. All of the suppliers who come here because of these companies, it helps with momentum; people are always looking to come here.”
Since she joined the South Carolina Department of Commerce in 2011, Brawley said there has been great momentum gained.
“Since 2011 when Secretary Hitt came on board for the state, we have worked over 1,017 economic development projects,” Brawley said. “And out of those, 117,000 new jobs came to the state; that’s huge. That doesn’t make all 117,000 jobs are here now. When we work a project, it is over five years. So one project that was announced in 2011, they have five years to make those jobs. Along with those jobs comes $32 billion in capital investment with a project in all 46 counties. Capital investment sometimes gets overlooked. With solar farms, there is very heavy investment but not a lot of jobs. That might not sound like a lot to have investment but not a lot of jobs but if a company is investing that much money they are staying here. They have plans to stay here and plans to grow.”