Moving Our Economy ForwardJan 01, 2017 05:50PM ● By Makayla Gay
By Jason Zacher
VP, Business Advocacy Greenville Chamber
The first six months of 2017 will be a time of significant
political change. President-elect Donald Trump promises to upend the political
order in Washington. Back here in South Carolina, Governor Nikki Haley is
expected to be quickly confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations,
which brings transition and a quirky line of succession.
With these changes as a backdrop, the Greenville Chamber and the Upstate Chamber Coalition are committed to making it easier to do business in Greenville. The Upstate business community spoke loud and clear in 2016 that there are clear and present economic challenges that we must tackle to continue to drive growth and create jobs.
The Greenville Chamber and our 10 Upstate chamber partners have a unified, four-point state agenda for 2017 that will improve infrastructure, cut bureaucratic red tape, and secure our state’s financial future. Our agenda is built after dozens of meetings with Greenville Chamber investors as well as a “listening tour” with our Upstate Chamber Coalition partners. We held more than a dozen meetings with business partners across the state – with groups such as the Charleston Metro Chamber, the South Carolina Chamber, the Manufacturer’s Alliance, and others.
The 8,000 businesses represented by the Coalition received a survey in October and a record number of business leaders participated this year. We received very strong support from our investors for these four items:
1. The first item is investing in education and looking at innovative ways to expand our workforce. As we approach historic lows for unemployment, tens of thousands of jobs are going unfilled – and as many as half of those jobs do not require college degrees. We’re asking for the General Assembly to live up to its promises and fund the public schools as required in state law. We’re also working with legislative leaders to expand for one-time, non-violent offenders to expand our workforce.
2. Infrastructure will remain a major item on our agenda. There are 95 million consumers within a day’s drive of the Inland Port in Greer. We have two major interstates and a top 10 port three hours away. Greenville Senator Ross Turner says: If the Upstate was a house, it would be the best one on the block. But the continuing neglect of our infrastructure threatens that geographic advantage. We need substantial, sustainable, and recurring funding so the Department of Transportation can work on the more than 85 percent of state roads rated “fair” or “poor.” With our Upstate cities witnessing a development boom, the General Assembly also needs to give municipalities the ability to enact capital projects sales taxes by referendum – the same power currently given to counties.
3. The next items on our agenda are about reforming taxes and regulation. We want to revise our corporate incentives to make it easier to recruit headquarters and other office jobs, not just the branch manufacturing plants that we recruit so well. These incentives will not only allow us to recruit companies from out of the area, but give us the tools we need to assist our fast-growing local businesses. The Chamber is also pushing the reauthorization of Angel Investor Tax Credits that incentivize South Carolinians to invest in our own high-impact startup companies. We are working with our local municipalities to streamline and standardize the business license fee process while not negatively impacting municipal revenue. The Chamber is aggressively seeking compromise on the handful of issues that divide the business community and the municipalities on reforming these fees.
4. The final major item on our agenda for 2017 is calling on the General Assembly to fix the State Pension Crisis. Our state’s unfunded public pension liability is a fiscal crisis that could dramatically increase costs for the business community. The General Assembly needs to tackle the issue in 2017 with realistic assumptions that will minimize the impact on the private sector. Failure to address this crisis will mean fewer resources to apply to education, infrastructure, and public safety and/or higher taxes on business from the state, counties, cities, school districts, and special purpose districts.
We have received bi-partisan support from the Upstate delegations on most of these items, and are looking forward to a successful 2017 at the Statehouse.
The Greenville Chamber and the Upstate Chamber Coalition are committed to being the voice of business in the General Assembly. For more information about these items, or to get more information on the issues that matter to business during 2017, please go to www.upstatechamber.org and get involved with us!