Updated April 29
A sprinkler company will locate in Pickens County, leading to the creation of approximately 100 jobs there.
A local technology firm expanding in Georgetown County, slated to create 152 jobs. That was the employment news this week.
I get a press release or two stating similar news every other week from the Governor’s Office. What I don’t see in my inbox on a weekly basis is news of layoffs.
Like the news that Boeing would be offering voluntary layoffs to 200 employees at its North Charleston plant—one of the Commerce Department’s crown jewels—ahead of Wednesday’s news the company’s quarterly earnings had dipped nine percent compared with the previous year.
Or the news that construction equipment manufacturer, Caterpillar would close two of its Midlands facilities, consequently cutting 400 jobs in response to a decreased demand for construction and mining equipment.
According to the New York Times, South Carolina gave Caterpillar a $200,000 incentive in 2012, the same year the business pledged a $20 million investment that was expected at the time to create more than 80 jobs at its Sumter hydraulic facility.
Naturally, officials don’t advertise the details of incentives packages awarded to corporations like Caterpillar.
These super-secretive packages are tied to a Closing Fund, which can be used at the governor’s discretion to attract economic development. The House included in its version of next year’s budget $15 million for the fund, even as the business community told officials crumbling infrastructure hurt business growth in the state.
But who can blame Republican Gov. Nikki Haley for using the fund to lure business that would otherwise locate elsewhere?
When she took office in 2011, the whole country was still shaking off the effects of the Great Recession. Haley, in conjunction with the Commerce Department, and the Department of Employment and Workforce has used every weapon in her arsenal to fight joblessness in South Carolina. And, as governors do, she’s championed every job and every investment won.
But incentives aren’t a panacea.
Just ask the 600 or more people facing unemployment this month.
Unemployment ticked up to 5.7 percent in March up from 5.5 percent in February, the first increase since September 2014. The increase was due to a record number of people entering the labor force, according to the Department of Employment and Workforce.
But if businesses continue layoffs even as South Carolina lures corporations with taxpayer-funded incentives, we can expect unemployment to continue to grow.