SUMMERVILLE — Plate, check. Napkin, check. Utensils, check. Time for dinner, South Carolina.
What's being served? Jobs via economic development.
The message by S.C. Secretary of Commerce Tuesday during a Lowcountry Industry Appreciation Luncheon was simple:
"If you want business to come then you have to have a place for them to locate," Secretary Bobby Hitt told Patch. "Government's role is setting the table."
Watch Hitt talk on government 'setting the table' for business in Sumter County in the video attached to this story.
He added that without key infrastructure supported by county governments, businesses will "go some place else." His keynote address Tuesday focused on building economic development in the state as a team and the successes the state has had in the manufacturing industry.
"In South Carolina, we have focused on — with our team, with our sales team, with our research and grant team — we focused on recruiting manufacturers," Hitt said in his speech. "It has longevity. It feeds into retail and all services."
Hitts said the economic climate in the state has been steadily improving in the state for the last two years, after a preceding 10-year slump in manufacturing development.
"We're better than we were two years ago as far as manufacturing sector jobs. We've continued to lose some jobs in construction. We've lost jobs in the government and private sector as well. Looking at the entire workforce out there, about 15-16 percent are manufacturing and that's where we're working very hard," Hitt said. "The retail sector has lost a lot of jobs in the last five years and until we get big payrolls again (from manufacturing) and enough money into the middle class, you're not going to see retail come back so these things all work together and with each other."
Hitt said economic development is not about government aiding business, but providing the climate in which business can thrive.
At the county level, Hitt urged local governments to provide certified industrial parks to attract businesses. From a state level, Hitt said he's focusing on supporting manufacturing by growing the state's rail system.
"It's logistics," he said. Adding later in an interview with Patch: "We need to bring rail to the forefront because with our large part we need to have an inter-modal rail system here in Charleston. We're working on that right now ...
"About the only finished product that comes to the port by rail is BMW, almost everything else comes by trucks," Hitt continued. "Every one train will eliminate 280 trucks from the road ... It's a factor of our economy whether we can move goods and people. We can't build roads fast enough to keep up with the congestion, and even if we could, it's very expensive to build roads in Charleston."
What are your thoughts on government-spurred economic development? Tell us in the comments!