October 31, 2014

SC jobless rate rises for third straight month

worker thumbnailSouth Carolina’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 6.6 percent in September, according to new data released by the state’s employment agency on Tuesday. That was up from a revised August level of 6.3 percent.

That bucked the trend nationwide, as the overall U.S. unemployment rate decreased to 5.9 percent in September from 6.1 percent in August.

The data released by the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce suggested that a slight growth in jobs was canceled out by much larger increase in the labor force, meaning more unemployed workers. SCDEW reported the number of South Carolinians working ticked up by 2,500 in September. but the labor force increased over the same month by nearly 9,000 people. The number of unemployed people in the state was slightly over 144,000, an increase of 6,400 from September

Since September 2013, a net of roughly 21,000 people have found work and the labor force has increased by nearly 6,700. The state’s unemployment rate has declined by 0.7 percentage points since September 2013.


Candidates for SC education chief agree on most topics, except Common Core

Molly Spearman

Molly Spearman (Image: SCETV)

Two of the candidates running for South Carolina’s next schools chief agreed on more than they disagreed during a televised debate Monday.

Republican candidate Molly Spearman and her Democratic opponent Tom Thompson met for 30 minutes in the education superintendent’s debate on SCETV. American Party nominee Ed Murray was not invited because he did not meet the debate criteria. All three are vying to replace current superintendent Mick Zais, who did not seek reelection this year.

The candidates agreed that South Carolina’s current education funding formula needs to change. Spearman, the executive director of the South Carolina Association of School Administrators, said the state’s current formula dates back to an era when each town had its own textile mill. “That no longer exists, so for the past almost 50 years now we have been patching the formula,” she said. “And it has gotten so complex and so divided, there’s so many strings of funding, that few people understand it.”

Thompson, a former South Carolina State University education dean who is now a consultant, said the problem is the mindset of state leaders who have allowed “minimally adequate” to become synonymous with education funding. “The superintendent may have to bring public pressure to convince the legislature that the needs of the children, the needs of the public education system, should be a priority for the state,” he said.

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Kent International opens bike assembly facility in Manning

kentiKent International Inc., a global supplier of bicycles and accessories, held an opening ceremony Wednesday for the company’s first U.S. bike assembly facility, which is located in South Carolina.

Kent began production of its Bicycle Corporation of America (BCA) line at the Manning facility this week. The initial commitment will be to handle Walmart’s needs for their spring 2015 launch.

Governor Nikki Haley and representatives from across the region were present during the announcement and joined the celebration. During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Kent announced its plans to double the amount of production and assembly than it had originally projected, from a half-million to more than a million bikes over the next four years. The company also expects to hire more than 200 employees to work in the 200,000 sq. ft. facility.

“We are seeing the economics of domestic sourcing changing due to increased energy and transportation costs overseas,” said Arnold Kamler, Chairman and CEO of Kent International. “We have developed a long-term approach and are taking action to create our own manufacturing hub onsite by encouraging companies to move component part production here.”

Kent presently outsources all of its bicycle production overseas (approximately 3 million bikes last year) due to the lower costs of production and has no plans to cut back on their importation. Instead, the plan is to fuel their growth through bicycles which will be assembled and produced in South Carolina. The plan is to source as much as 60-70% of the components parts in the USA by 2018. At the present time, virtually all of the component parts are being imported from Taiwan and China. Kent’s new line produced in South Carolina will be called “BCA” – Bicycle Corporation of America and will be the first mass production of bicycles sold in the USA in more than 15 years.

Kamler told South Carolina Radio Network they chose South Carolina because the state had a lot to offer. “The real estate here was great. The utilities cost were great.”

In addition to Walmart, the Parsippany, NJ-based company is also a major supplier to Toys R’ Us, Amazon and Academy Sports & Outdoors.

SC gas prices at a near 4-year low

AAA Carolinas reports that the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas in South Carolina has fallen below $3 for the first time in nearly four years. The average price for a gallon of gas was $2.97 in South Carolina, eight cents lower than a week ago and 16 cents lower over the past month. The last time the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded fell below $3 was in February 2011.

Greenville-Spartanburg has the least expensive gas in the state at an average of $2.92 a gallon, while the service stations in the  Charleston area have the most expensive gasoline prices at an average of $3.02 a gallon.

Could SC learn from other state’s open mining

OP mineSheared off mountain tops, towering piles of rubble and deep pits make it hard to ignore Montana’s recent history of gold mining.

According to the Rock Hill Herald, dominant on the landscape, industrial-scale gold mines provided jobs and tax revenues for parts of three decades in small communities that came to depend on the economic support. But big open-pit gold mines had such an impact on the environment that Montana effectively banned new ones 16 years ago.

Now, as a Canadian corporation looks to develop an industrial-scale gold mine in South Carolina, Montana is struggling with the mess these massive operations left behind. Bankruptcies, sloppy mining practices and sometimes lax oversight created expensive and dangerous problems that other states could learn from as a new wave of gold exploration extends to the Southeast, Montana regulators say.

“We have had long and painful lessons,” said Warren McCullough, a bureau chief with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. “I would hope other states would look at that and keep that in mind.”

The mine proposed for South Carolina, which would be larger than any gold digging operation in the eastern United States, would be an open-pit mine similar to those in Montana.

Unlike underground shaft mines, open-pit gold mines are massive operations that rely on blasting huge craters in the earth’s crust to extract microscopic gold particles that are embedded.