As South Carolina’s state legislature gets ready to start debate on taking down the Confederate battle flag from Statehouse grounds, leaders of the state’s largest business groups have said they support Governor Nikki Haley’s call for action. That now includes the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce.
President and CEO Ted Pitts, told South Carolina Radio Network it makes sense to take the flag down. “From a business perspective removing the flag from Statehouse grounds will help support investment, job creation and opportunities in the state.”
Pitts said that, from 1999-2000, the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce helped lead the effort to remove the Confederate naval jack from the Statehouse dome and place it in its present location. The business community got involved then for the same reason the Chamber supports the call for action today, he said: It is the right thing to do for the state and its people.
While Pitts only became president of the chamber in December (he was previously Haley’s chief of staff), he said the group did not previously comment on the flag publicly until after a Charleston AME church shooting that police say was motivated by race.
“The business community felt like (the 2000 compromise) was a good step and… it was what our political leaders could agree to at that time,” he said, calling the shooting’s aftermath an opportunity. “I don’t believe that they thought at that time the issue was done with forever… and the business community sees now is the time to a place of honor and off the Statehouse grounds.”
There are two minor boycotts on South Carolina as a result of the flag’s presence. The college sports association NCAA does not allow South Carolina locations to host predetermined postseason tournaments (unless it is a situation where the higher-ranking team acts as host) and the NAACP has maintained an active boycott of the state ever since the 2000 compromise.
Pitts said taking down the flag is good for business for several reasons. “It enhances tourism opportunities in South Carolina. One of the largest industries in our state is tourism and removing the flag from Statehouse grounds helps enhance those opportunities.”
“The business community sees now as the time to remove the flag,” Pitts said. He said taking it down will improve the state’s perception. “It would move all of South Carolina’s businesses forward. And it looks forward and not the past.”
The state Senate is scheduled to start debate when they return on Monday.