By Alan Cooper
[I spoke about this topic on the South Carolina Business Review on Monday, January 30 – listen here]
During the State of the State address, Governor Henry McMaster asked two thought-provoking questions. Questions that indicate a level of long-term thinking that is rarely seen in politics. Did you hear them?
The Governor rightly started off by boasting about an incredible year in terms of economic development for the state of South Carolina. In 2022, 120 projects were announced totaling $10.27 billion in new capital investment and over 14,000 new jobs created. This is almost two and a half times as much as 2021. The amount of foreign direct investment into the state quadrupled from the previous year.
He hit on the big announcements.
In Berkeley County, Redwood Materials will invest $3.5 billion and create 1,500 jobs for a new battery materials recycling facility. This represents the single largest announcement in the history of South Carolina.
In the Upstate, BMW will invest $1.7 billion – $1 billion of which will prepare Plant Spartanburg to produce electric vehicles and $700 million to build a new, high-voltage battery assembly facility in Woodruff. This is the second largest investment in state history.
Envision AESC will invest $810 million in Florence to build a new, battery cell gigafactory and employ over 1,000 residents to supply technology-leading battery cells to power the next generation of electric vehicles.
The Port of Charleston is now dredged to 52 feet and is the deepest on the eastern seaboard and poised for steady growth.
Business is good for South Carolina and this is worth celebrating.
But the speech definitely showed a willingness to also look at the other side of the coin and point out the dangers of unchecked economic expansion. What impact will this growth have on our geographic heritage – the land, the creeks, the mountains, the waterways, and the islands that we love?
The Governor is also willing to talk about our cultural heritage in South Carolina. By 1800, Charleston, SC had the largest Jewish population of any state in the United States. And he talked about the topics that are NOT easy ones for anybody: our indigenous populations, the African American story and Gadsden’s Wharf in Charleston where so many souls were sold into slavery, and where the soon to be opened International African American Museum is located.
Here are the two questions, followed by a call to action. In the Governor’s words…
“Will anyone recognize South Carolina in 100 years?
Will we allow our state’s culturally and environmentally significant structures, monuments, lands, islands, and waters to be lost – to over-development, mismanagement, flooding, erosion, or storm damage?
Economic growth and the preservation of our shared heritage are not opposing objectives which must be balanced as in a competition, one against the other. Instead, they are complementary, intertwined, and inseparable, each dependent on the other. To strengthen one is to strengthen the other.”
This is our moment to act. While we still can.”
After coming off the best year in South Carolina economic development, the Governor set a challenge for the next 100 years. In my opinion, this shows a great love for this state, this country and this world; an incredible ability to see the forest for the trees = leadership!
I may not agree with everything the Governor says, but on this one, sir, how can we help?