The House of Representatives returned from its scheduled furlough (and winter storm) week to a massive influx of great economic news.
We didn’t spent much time on the House floor in full session this week since the state budget is being debated by the full House Ways and Means Committee. We needed to give them, and the other House committees, time to complete this important work.
Tuesday, we were greeted with the announcement of a $1 Billion investment and 500 jobs created by Toray Industries outside of Spartanburg. Toray produces high-quality carbon fiber materials for the aeronautics and energy industries. The company said it liked our proximity to emerging markets in Latin America.
Local officials told the media this week that they hope Toray’s impact will be similar to BMW’s initial announcement in the Upstate — $420 million and 1,000 jobs. BMW’s footprint in our state has expanded radically since then with more than 4,000 people working at the plant in Greer. One official expected Toray to “under-promise and over-deliver.” I think we all share that sentiment.
Toray is simply the latest in a long line of major manufacturing announcements that validate our efforts to create a strong business climate in our state. We must compete not only with Georgia and North Carolina, but Toray’s announcement shows that we are competing for jobs against sites all across the world. I think our state is an excellent place to live, work, and play.
The economic news announced during last week’s winter storm was also significant. The International Trade Administration announced that South Carolina merchandise exports increased 4 percent in 2013 to a record of $26.1 billion in goods sold to 202 countries. We helped the United States reach an all-time high for exports of our goods and services.
“This data shows that more and more South Carolina companies are growing their businesses and strengthening our economy by selling their top-quality goods to consumers around the globe,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker in an article posted with the business newspaper GSA Business.
Some interesting notes from the report, our exports were up 116 percent to Turkey, up 66 percent to the Dominican Republic, up 53 percent to Chile, and up 50 percent to China. Our biggest export categories were transportation equipment, machinery, chemicals, plastics, and paper.
The exports report came immediately after the announcement that we had a record year in new investment by companies locating or expanding in our state. In 2013, we recruited $5.4 billion in capital investment. That translates directly into jobs, higher salaries, and economic growth for our state.
I hope you and your loved ones have a great Valentine’s Day. I also want to extend a special thank you to our municipal, county, and state workers as well as our first responders who worked around the clock this week to clear our roads and keep us safe. I’d also like to thank all of the electric utility workers from across the state and the Southeast who worked hard to restore power to our more than 300,000 friends and neighbors who lost power in last week’s winter storm.
It is an honor and a privilege to serve you in Columbia again this year. If you need help navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.