Secretary of Commerce Speaks at Intergovernmental Meeting

South Carolina Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt was the guest speaker for the Quarterly Intergovernmental meeting held last week at the office of Winnsboro Town Council member Bill Haslett.

Hitt was appointed by Gov. Nikki Haley to serve in this position in January 2011. He is the previous manager of corporate affairs at the BMW Manufacturing Company in Spartanburg and worked for 17 years at The State and The Columbia Record newspapers. He was asked by Winnsboro Mayor Roger Gaddy to speak to the local government officials about economic development issues that face Fairfield County.

“Incentives are how we set the table to get businesses,” said Hitt, who resides in Fairfield County on Lake Wateree. “Having building inventory is crucial. If you don’t have building inventory, you can’t sell your county. Interstates are the field of dreams. Companies want visibility and access.”

Hitt said the most important thing companies look at after the property is the workforce.

“Companies look around for an area with smart and clever people,” he said. “They want to see a sustainable workforce. Education is the most important thing we have to move an area forward. Quality and loyalty of the workforce is also important. Every community should think about what they have to sell. You have the proximity to Charlotte and Columbia airports. We have personality in Fairfield County. I can’t make any promises that I will treat Fairfield County any differently than other counties, but our department has placed a higher emphasis on rural areas.”

“Businesses look around a community to see how people live. It matters,” Hitt continued. “People take an impression from everything they see. It’s also important that the towns are spruced up. We need very much for the water issues here to be dealt with. I know the issue is not easy to solve.”

Hitt told the group that the trend in manufacturing is that more capital is put into technology and fewer employees are needed.

“Higher tech automotive and aviation type businesses are rapidly locating to our state. We are experiencing a manufacturing renaissance,” said Hitt. “In the past year, the state’s unemployment dropped from 12 percent down to 8.2 percent. We are adding a thousand jobs a month. The state has over 400 industry projects right now.”

Hitt gave a last bit of advice.

“A public/private partnership would build momentum. Get into a unified position. An organizational structure would give you momentum. You need to put the welcome mat out.”

“We should have an industry recruitment committee,” Gaddy said when Hitt finished.

The group discussed creating a committee of business leaders and elected officials to meet with perspective industries.

“Until you get all of the problems worked out, people won’t stop and look at you,” said County Council Chairman David Ferguson. “We don’t have any product (speculative building) right now, and not enough water for what we have now.”

“We need to get better,” said Winnsboro Town Council member Danny Miller. “We need to have the right people at the table. We want to bring jobs to the Town of Winnsboro.”