Gov. Nikki Haley remains enthusiastic about South Carolina’s future.
Haley, guest of honor at the Greater Summerville/Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce’s annual Industry Appreciation Luncheon held Thursday morning at Bethany United Methodist Church in Summerville, gave a brief but spirited synopsis of some of her administration’s goals and successes in areas such as education, infrastructure, and economic development.
The governor, running for re-election against repeat opponent Sen. Vince Sheheen, was enthusiastic in extolling the state’s successes.
Haley said she is concerned every time she hears someone say the American Dream is no more. In fact, she looks to the example her parents set, which makes her more resolute in ensuring the dream is alive and well in South Carolina, she said.
“My parents came to this county for the American Dream, they wanted their children to know that only in this country could you be as successful as you wanted to be and nothing will get in your way,” she said.
With that, she segued into some of the accomplishments her administration has achieved in the past three years.
One of the most important accomplishments is job creation, she said.
“In 2011, we all came off a tough recession, but like all business people, we hunkered down and endured it,” she said. “Now we have more people working in South Carolina than ever before.”
In fact, she said, 400 new economic development projects and 57,000 new jobs have been announced – 17 of those projects in Dorchester County alone.
Much of the successes come from refocusing priorities, accomplishing goals to ensure a more friendly business climate as well as make government more user friendly to the citizens, and above all, changing attitudes, she said.
That was one reason why she removed all sitting members from the board of directors of the Department of Health and Environmental Control and replaced them with business people, she said.
“The head of that board is the president of a construction company– he understands that time is money,” she said.
That was also why she insisted state employees in all agencies start answering the telephone with the greeting, “It’s a great day in South Carolina, may I help you.”
“They hated that – they really did,” she deadpanned, drawing a laugh from the crowd. “But the point was, I wanted them to be proud of where they work, but to also always remember who they work for.”
Haley said her administration also focused on infrastructure from the very beginning, she said, passing a $1 billion transportation bill, as well as earmarking money for the deepening of the Port of Charleston as well as improvements in inland instrastructure.
Other efforts to improve the business climate included passing tort reforms, reducing the business income tax from 5 to 3 percent to help small businesses and encouraging the Department of Commerce to recruit industries to rural areas.
With nearly 400 economic development project announcements and some 57,000 jobs expected to be created from these announcements, the results have been dramatic, she said.
“Now you tell me the American dream is dead in South Carolina – we went from an 11.5 unemployment rate to 5.7,” she said. “We have more people working now than anytime in the state’s history. We are building planes with Boeing, we are the number one BMW producing plant in the world, we are the number one tire producing state in the country with Bridgestone, Michelin, Continental, and now GP Tire. ATVs? We produce more of them in our Honda plant than anywhere else in the world. And the next big thing – carbon fiber – we’ve got that, too.”
In addition, she said, her administration has taken some 25,000 people off welfare and put them back to work, she said.
“What does that tell us? They want to work, they want to make their families proud, they want to be productive,” Haley said. “We didn’t hire a single extra person to do that. All we did was tell the focus of that agency, your focus is to not give a check but to find a job, and that’s the role of government, to lift people up, not to pass people along.”
Finally, Haley touted her administration’s efforts in education, to bring technology to classrooms and to work on a more equitable method of funding school districts.
“As much as we can celebrate these 57,000 jobs, as much as I love that, it doesn’t mean a thing if it’s not our kids who are getting those jobs.”
With these accomplishments in place, Haley said she feels strongly that South Carolina is, in fact, nurturing and growing the American Dream.
“I can tell you this, South Carolina is on the move,” she said. “And the best part? We’re just getting started.”