Sunday, Dec. 4, 2005
State needs a
strategy for small businesses
SC Statehouse Report
4, 2005 - - With all the time and money spent to bring big
businesses to South Carolina, you'd think the state could
do something big to help small businesses.
But other than passing an initiative here or a small tax
credit there, it's pretty safe to say the state has a long
way to go to do anything substantial for small businesses.
"If passing legislation to give tax credits and incentives
was a strategy for economic development, then we should shut
down the state Department of Commerce," said Frank Knapp,
president and CEO of the S.C. Small Business Chamber. "Yes,
the legislature passed a couple of things that will be beneficial,
but that's not a strategy."
The irony, of course, is that at election time, politicians
strut and crow about how small businesses are the backbone
of South Carolina's economy. More than 85 percent of the tens
of thousands of businesses in the state have fewer than 20
employees, Knapp said.
So why doesn't South Carolina do more for small businesses
than throw legislative crumbs and have a neat Web site for
people who want to start a business?
Because it's easier for the state's economic development
machine to focus on landing a big Kahuna - - a blue-chip business
like BMW or Michelin or, as in the recent headlines, DaimlerChrysler.
Never mind the competition is fierce. And never mind it's
It's still amazing to consider how the state spent $400 million
in incentives to land an airplane plant being built in Charleston.
While it's great the plant will be in South Carolina, it will
translate into about 400 jobs over the long haul. In other
words, the state offered essentially $1 million per job to
lure a plant here.
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When viewed that way - - and when you consider how important
everybody says small businesses are - - something just doesn't
seem right. Wouldn't it make much more sense to create a pool
of money to seed small business projects? It would be a very
good bet that 400 smart small businesses that borrowed $1
million each would be able to do a heck of a lot more than
create 1 job each over several years.
If South Carolina wants to get serious about a strategy to
grow small businesses, it can take a lesson from its neighbor
Georgia, which started a program last year to do more to make
communities "entrepreneur friendly."
The most interesting thing: the program, which costs about
$1 million annually to run, didn't cost any "new"
money. Instead of looking for new revenue to start the Entrepreneur
and Small Business Development Initiative, Georgia took nine
state economic development employees and rewrote their job
descriptions. Instead of focusing only on the time-worn, old
strategy of working with communities to land big industrial
prospects, these employees, who are spread out across the
state, now work with communities to energize small business
"It's working," said Mary Ellen McClanahan, who
runs the program in Georgia. "But we're not telling folks
to ignore traditional [recruiting methods] either. We're training
leadership - - and this is that old-fashioned leadership who
are used to focusing on the big box. It's just a fabulous
The program connects small business economic development
professionals with community leaders to assess challenges
and help them find local solutions and new resources that
will work for area small businesses. Most importantly, the
state's economic development experts listen to a community's
small business people to find out what they need. Then they
work with them to develop an array of tools - - mentoring
programs, training opportunities, informational materials
In other words, they're working together to develop long-term
strategies to help local small businesses, not just quick
By all accounts, Georgia's strategy is paying off. So far,
13 of the state's 159 counties are designated as "entrepreneur
friendly" areas for business. An example: a coordinated
entrepreneurial leadership approach in rural Coffee County
over the last year has created about 800 new jobs and helped
put small businesses in 345,000 square feet of previously
vacant space, according to McClanahan.
Georgia's program got its start through an executive order
by GOP Gov. Sonny Perdue. It's time for South Carolina's elected
leaders get away from election-year rhetoric and do something
similar and real that will help small businesses, not just
pander to them.
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
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11/30: Column was full of good ideas
To the editor:
Blessings to you, Andy Brack. [Commentary,
11/27] You are a great voice for unsung South Carolinians.
-- Bud Ferillo, Columbia, SC
Lawmakers need to do better
To the editor:
Your comments are welcome and your poll hits the spot. [Commentary,
Educate the children with $10 Million? We should build JAILS
for the parents that refuse to encourage their children to
learn how to LEARN not get the ''education" offered.
The idea that education stops at the High School Diploma hand-out
ceremony is just much of the cause. A High School diploma
is the foundation of education that will continue until we're
To not see the problem is leadership by Criminals [just because
they're not charged doesn't make them any less of a criminal
than a robber that gets away, is the real problem and it seems
to reach into a very vast number of people from and in South
Carolina. You got thieves in the woodpile is all I can say.
-- Gary Rice, Columbia, SC
property tax will hurt disabled vets,
Manuel Bettencourt, Hilton Head Island, SC
more to property tax changes, Tom
Hatfield, Hilton Head Island, SC
to do something on illegal immigration,
Bob Logan, Little River, SC
problems are inexcusable, Sue
Womack, Pawley's Island, SC
drilling article mongers fear,
Don Allen, Charleston, SC
will take notice of stats?,
Bill Homewood, Hilton Head Island, SC
article, Charles Sanders, Hilton
Head Island, SC
report on SC, Boyd McLean, Gaffney,
at where we're doing well, John
Rivers, Charleston, SC
math, Samuel Tenenbaum, Lexington,
needs to move away from Civil War,
Gary Rice, Columbia, SC
show state's daunting predicament,
Harriet Smartt, Isle of Palms, SC
on cigarette tax, oil drilling
This section tracks past forecasts by Statehouse Report
with other media reports:
In Statehouse Report:
tax hike is market-based approach: "The
question of whether South Carolina's lawmakers have
the gumption and foresight to raise the state's abysmally
low 7-cent-per-pack cigarette tax begs the question:
Is our state really serious about cutting the smoking
rate, which would improve people's health, extend lives
and reduce overall health costs at hospitals and other
In The (Rock Hill) Herald:
cigarette tax: "Thanks to North Carolina,
South Carolina now has the lowest cigarette tax in the
nation. North Carolina had held that distinction, but
in September raised its 5-cents-a-pack tax to 30 cents.
The tax will increase to 35 cents in July 2006."
In Statehouse Report:
refinery, drilling in bud: "One of the
beauties of South Carolina's coast is that it doesn't
have industries stacked on top of each other. While
any drilling or building of a refinery would be far
off, let's hope lawmakers can keep the future in mind,
and not mortgage it with something that could make us
just like everybody else."
In The (Hilton Head) Island Packet
refinery, drilling must be fought: "The
call to action comes in response to a state representative
from Anderson County saying he plans to introduce legislation
during the upcoming session to explore construction
of an oil refinery along South Carolina's coast, possibly
in Jasper County. Federal officials are moving toward
allowing offshore drilling for oil."
SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political news items from the past week:
DaimlerChrysler. It's great news a new van assembly
plant will be in North Charleston, but we hope state lawmakers
will start paying more attention to small businesses.
McMaster. Hats off to Attorney General Henry McMaster,
who is earning a lot of praise for his work from a variety
of groups, according to a cover story by the Columbia
Free-Times. Suggestion: Back off a little on the public
Clyburn. Kudos to U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn for a private
endowment for SC State University that could be worth $1 million.
Floyd. State Superintendent of Education candidate
Karen Floyd ended up with egg on her face for overstating
violence stats in schools, but she admitted the error and
removed the info from her Web site. The error didn't, however,
curb her appetite for more school discipline.
Sanford. The governor continues to get well-deserved
grief for not lowering the state's flags in honor of Rosa
Parks. He says he's right and constitutional law professors
are wrong. Imagine that -- Mark Sanford thinking he's right
all of the time.
Folks. Former Sanford spokesman Will Folks serves
as a continuing apologist for his former boss in an op-ed
that appeared throughout the state this week. Who's to blame
for everything under the sun? The Legislature. We said a couple
of years ago the governor was using the Legislature as a re-election
tool. This is just more evidence of that.
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