Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Times & Democrat of Orangeburg on manufacturing jobs
"South Carolina continues to lead the nation's manufacturing renaissance," S.C. Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt said in Tuesday's announcement on an industry expansion in Williston.
Hitt and Gov. Nikki Haley speak regularly about South Carolina's manufacturing sector thriving since they took office. They cite 28,000 new manufacturing jobs over the past four years, more than created in Georgia and North Carolina.
During Haley's tenure as governor, South Carolina has become the top state for exporting tire and passenger vehicles. The list of top companies locating or planning to locate in the state since she took office in 2011 is impressive: Continental Tire plant in Sumter County, Giti tire in Chester County, the Daimler van plant expansion in North Charleston and Volvo in Berkeley County.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show the total number of factory jobs rose 12.7 percent in the state between 2010 and 2015 to more than 231,000, a bigger percentage increase than in 39 other states.
And the prospects for the future are good.
Projections by the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce are that manufacturing jobs will grow by 16,000-17,000 between 2010 and 2020. And growth in key manufacturing areas such as the Midlands (9 percent) and Upstate (12 percent) is expected to be strong.
But South Carolina cannot rest on its laurels. The competition is intense and nearby.
On Monday, Site Selection magazine named Georgia as the state with the Top Business Climate for the third consecutive year. As revealed in the November 2015 issue of the magazine, research based in part on a survey of corporate real estate executives and in part on the magazine's index of criteria led to Georgia repeating its first-place finish. And South Carolina's neighbor to the north, North Carolina, is second. Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas round out the top five.
"Capital investors tell us the ideas we put in place are actually working," Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said. "Our tax reform in the manufacturing arena, for example, to remove the sales tax from energy use was a huge boost to our manufacturing sector."
The governor also points to removing as many regulatory impediments as possible and providing a well-educated and trained workforce as deliverables of particular interest to companies looking at Georgia locations. Corporate executives routinely cite Quick Start, Georgia's workforce training program; logistics assets, such as the Port of Savannah and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport; and tax reform as the factors that brought them to Georgia.
Fifty percent of the overall Business Climate Ranking is based on a survey of corporate site selectors who are asked to rank the states based on their recent experience of locating facilities in them.
The other 50 percent is based on an index of seven criteria: performance in Site Selection's annual competitiveness ranking; total Conway Projects Database-compliant facilities in 2014; total new facilities in 2014 per capita; total 2015 new projects year to date; total 2015 projects year to date per capita; state tax burdens on mature firms and on new firms according to the Tax Foundation and KPMG Location Matters analysis.
South Carolina ranked 13th overall and fifth in the survey of corporate executives.
The state fell down in the magazine's index of seven criteria, notably ranking 47th in total number of new plants locating in the state in 2014 and 45th in new plants per capita in the same year. The ranking is a lot better for January-August 2015, with the state at 11th and ninth, respectively in the new-plants scoring.
The battle is fierce and the top contenders among states are our neighbors.
The Sun News of Myrtle Beach on offshore oil drilling
It's unanimous now among the municipal governments of coastal Horry County that offshore seismic testing and potentially drilling for oil and natural gas is not wanted. Recently, the town of Briarcliffe Acres, tucked in between the cities of Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach, joined 23 other coastal S.C. communities in opposing offshore oil production.
Town Council member Huston Huffman expressed the united concern: "We understand what damage can ensue from any spill that could happen out there. We don't want to take the risk of a spill out there polluting the beaches." In opposing future offshore oil and natural gas production, coastal S.C. municipal governments are reflecting the thinking of their constituents. Now, elected officials such as U.S. Rep. Tom Rice need to rethink their position, which boils down to go ahead with seismic testing so oil companies know what's out there under the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.
In a comprehensive report by Emily Weaver of The Sun News, Rice outlined his position: "We don't even know what's out there. There appears to be formations that would likely have some type of (crude oil or natural gas) reserves. My position has been let's do the seismic testing; let's find out what's out there and then we can make rational decisions." That position stems from the time when the United States was much more dependent on foreign crude oil. It was prudent to consider federal oil leases off the mid- to south-Atlantic states. Probing for petroleum had not been done for decades and technology has improved. That was the thinking before vast volumes of crude were produced from new sources such as shale.
It was also prior to the monumental Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The biggest oil spill in U.S. history caused terrific environmental and economic damage along the Gulf Coast. In July, BP (British Petroleum) and five states reached an $18.7 billion legal settlement. The Deepwater Horizon spill remains very much in the minds of coastal S.C. residents. No matter how far offshore a spill occurs, toxic crude oil will pollute the ocean and eventually the beaches of coastal communities that absolutely depend on tourism. No matter how much the likehood of oil spills may be reduced, there will be a certain amount of risk that is simply not worth taking. We point out that such risk is not attached to future wind turbines offshore.
Rice is working on rescheduling a public forum, postponed because of record flooding, on the process of testing, potential timelines, environmental concerns and so forth. Rice has visited drilling rigs, including one in offshore Louisiana. He notes that oil companies declined to develop fields that were recently opened off Alaska. "It may be that this never becomes feasible to drill off the Atlantic (Coast)," he says.
Increased U.S. crude oil production has so improved the nation's situation that Congress has under consideration authorizing the selling of excess crude to other countries. Earlier this year, oil refiners were running out of storage space. The global price of crude has fallen and that is a factor in oil companies' reluctance to drill for more oil and gas.
The economic reality is that the U.S. supply of crude oil has greatly diminished any foreseeable need for offshore Atlantic oil production. If the Atlantic has oil and natural gas deposits, they surely can await discovery for a time well into the future - if and when they are needed.
The Island Packet of Hilton Head on recent flooding
Extraordinarily high tides push saltwater over seawalls.
Flooding occurs from saturating rains.
Offshore storms send waves gouging into soft sand dunes.
Trees are moved around like Tinker Toys by the sea.
A town government braces for a $21 million beach nourishment project to pump 2 million cubic yards of sand ashore.
Residents scramble to armor the shoreline in front of their homes.
All of this may sound like the plagues of Egypt, but it is not. It has come to pass in Beaufort County in recent days.
The lesson is this: The power of water always wins. Mankind must accept that and move out of harm's way. Whether the policy is set in Columbia, Beaufort County or Washington, D.C., the expectation should never be that mankind will overpower nature in the watery soup of the Lowcountry.
Wetlands that give rainfall a safe place to go cannot be bulldozed and filled with homes.
Armoring the oceanfront is a natural reaction when waves gobble sand and lap at the door. But when one area is armored, the problem only moves next door. The waves will always win.
South Carolina many years ago put into law a progressive policy of moving development back from the shoreline and limiting hard surfaces. That policy must not be chiseled away by people foolish enough to think they can outwit and overpower Mother Nature.
The lesser of all the evils is the beach nourishment that the Town of Hilton Head Island keeps doing. It is expensive. It cannot be done to satisfy all parties, both the vacationing families and the migrating shorebirds. And sand constantly moves, both offshore and along the beach.
Hilton Head can afford to maintain its No. 1 asset because of a 2 percent tax on overnight lodging. Remember that the beach preservation fee had to be fought for in court and appreciate that governments must sometimes be willing to duke it out in court to preserve natural assets.
But in the end, Beaufort County residents must remember that it is they, not the rising tides and crashing waves, that can be controlled.