In an area of the state where unemployment is at its worst, there was some good economic news last week. Solar Energy Initiatives, out of Florida, is expanding its worldwide presence while building a training and distribution center in Kingstree.
State Senator Yancy McGill of Kingstree says South Carolina has much to offer: “The solar capital of the east coast is South Carolina, the half-way point between New York and Miami. And we will get where we see mega-jobs locate in South Carolina dealing with renewing America, but renewing South Carolina. Watch and see.”
McGill’s enthusiasm for economic development in his region includes praise for the SC Department of Commerce. “Our South Carolina Department of Commerce is on fire. They are doing a good job. They’re active, they’re progressive, they’re recruiting industry all over the world — not just in America, but all over the world,” McGill says.
McGill sees a light at the end of this recession. “As quick as the national economic woes -when it calms down within about a two year period we’re getting ready to see major economic development in South Carolina. We’re prepared, and I can tell you that these major unemployment rates, you’re getting ready to see them sink to single digits.”
Senator Kent Williams represents Marion, where the unemployment rate is highest in the state at more than 24 percent. Rates were high even before the recession. Williams says they are having to rethink and retool their economic base in order to survive after NAFTA took their jobs out of the U.S.
Williams said. “Those jobs are gone and it doesn’t look like they’ll ever come back. We had to do some things different. First of all we had to put some infrastructure in place and put the right people in place. Change the mindset of the people there. And we started with the leadership, tried to get everyone on the same page, build relationships on the state level and on the federal level that will help us erode those high numbers.”
Williams is also the deputy county daministrator for Marion County. Recently, two industries have made announcements in his area: Softee Supreme Diaper Company with 200 jobs and ASCa Landing Gear Company with 300 jobs to come. Williams was encouraged by the wages that will come with these companies. “With the Landing Gear, the wages that they will be paying will just be unbelievable. We’re talking about twenty bucks an hour. Those are the kind of jobs we need in Marion County. We’re kind of diversifying our industry in Marion County. Before we were just farming and manufacturing.”