South Carolina, like most other states trying to recruit businesses, offers incentives to firms interested in establishing jobs in the region. These include job development credits and tax incentives among other incentive packages.
Will Williams, president and CEO of the Economic Development Partnership of South Carolina—which covers Aiken, Edgefield and Saluda Counties—said the state sets limits on when counties can enter certain tax level agreements. His group works with manufacturers so they can take advantage of the credit if they've invested the appropriate amount.
Williams said when a company invests more than $2.5 million, it can enter into a fee in lieu of taxes. Manufacturing property is taxed at a rate of 10.5 percent; the fee reduces that from 10.5 percent to 6 percent through a negotiated contract with the county. Generally the agreement lasts for 20 years.
“Our job is to help our existing manufacturers grow by helping them navigate through some of the channels, like government interaction,” Williams said of the EDPSC. “Their job is to make their product and make it profitably. A lot of times, they don't have time to spend on other issues, so that's one of our roles.
“We also want to encourage expansions and recruit new manufacturers to come to the area.”
However, Hitt—who has first-hand experience from his time working for BMW, helping the firm establish its first South Carolina facility—said most firms will wind up with two to four sites in the same general region of a country that are each financially comparable. Then it comes down to logistics because after about 10 years, most front-end incentives have faded, and the plant must be profitable on its own.
“If you are a tire company looking for a location in the Southeast U.S., we're tailor-made for you because we've demonstrated it with two other tire companies,” Hitt said. “Logistics and training are the differentiators, and let me say our competitor states are good at both of those things. It's hard to keep just enough of an edge to be the one that you'd pick. We haven't won every one of them, but we've been highly successful.”
The state has some built-in advantages—it is centrally located along the Southeast Atlantic Coast being about 580 miles north of Miami and about 530 miles south of Washington D.C. Its placement along the ocean allows it to ship with relative ease compared to landlocked competitors, operating through the Port of Charleston—a port that Michelin, Bridgestone and Continental currently utilize to import and export products and materials for their facilities.
But beyond that, the state has made sure it has a strong highway system, airports and rail system. Hitt said South Carolina has budgeted $2 billion in investments to build a new port terminal and a new rail that will be online by the end of the decade. The new rail will represent about $250 million, while an intermodal yard and new terminal represent about an $800 million investment. The rest of the money will be used to update the state's road systems and deepen the harbor.
“Manufacturing pushes and forces communities to get better,” Selleck said. “We're very demanding, but generally we're demanding in a responsible way. That prepares the community for future growth as we move forward.”
South Carolina's technical college system also is a major selling point in recruiting business, Hitt said. The state operates a program called ReadySC through its 16 technical colleges, which specializes in establishing customized training programs for firms looking to locate in South Carolina. Hitt said the system can be catered to different cultural distinctions and technologies.
“I think there's just a pro-active attitude toward business,” Elmore said. “The government takes a really strong approach toward training. Without them, I don't think we could handle the volume. That was a big part for us.”