Don't forget middle-class manufacturing jobs
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

OCT. 26, 2003 - - The job numbers haven't been kind to South Carolina over the last two weeks. Since Oct. 13, manufacturers have announced job losses affecting more than 2,200 Palmetto State workers:

  • GE Power Systems, Greenville: 600 jobs cut;
  • Alice Manufacturing, Pickens: 190 jobs cut;
  • Kemet Electronics, Mauldin: 650 jobs cut by March 2005;
  • Milliken and Company: 240 jobs cut and two S.C. mills closed in Union and Saluda;
  • Georgetown Steel, Georgetown: 541 jobs cut and mill closed.

All totaled, South Carolina has lost about 18,000 manufacturing and production jobs have been lost over the last year.

Meanwhile, state officials have embarked on a plan to boost the state's number of knowledge-based jobs to foster a more entrepreneurial climate. Gov. Mark Sanford has said protecting local manufacturing jobs can't be the state's top business priority, according to the Greenville News. The way to spur the economy forward is to boost small business development and promote knowledge-centered jobs, a recent story said.

"In large part, the governor's trade mission to China is all about taking manufacturing's case directly to the Chinese," Sanford spokesman Will Folks said in an e-mail. "But whether it's traditional manufacturing or emerging high tech, the governor's focus is on making S.C. more competitive from a tax standpoint.

"Short-term, the governor is bringing a message to the Chinese and looking at synergies in the Chinese-American trade relationship that could shift more jobs to our side of the ledger. Long-term, it would be irresponsible for us a state not to engage emerging industries and stay ahead of the curve in recruiting companies within those industries to come to South Carolina."



McLEMORE'S WORLD: The color of money

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So what does that mean? It looks like it means the state's top business recruiters want South Carolina, long-recognized for having one of the most competitive and strongest manufacturing bases, to rely on foreign countries to infuse some new manufacturing jobs. With a billion people in China, is that likely?

But even more importantly, it appears these leaders no longer want to focus on our manufacturing or its middle-class workers. Instead, they want to new small businesses or knowledge-based jobs to pick up the slack.

Here's a wake-up call state leaders should consider: Everyone can't be a manager. Everyone can't be a knowledge-based worker. Everyone can't be retrained as an information technology specialist.

These are messages that are clear to people who have been involved for years in using South Carolina's manufacturing abilities as a magnet for state growth.

"We [in South Carolina] have demonstrated competency in manufacturing that keeps us very, very competitive in any U.S. market and many foreign countries, unless you're chasing the cheapest dollar, and we're not interested in that," said Jim Morris, former head of the state's technical colleges and chief of staff to the state Commerce Department in the previous administration.

"To walk away from this wonderful track record and success would be a serious mistake for South Carolina."

Morris agreed the state needed to position itself to take advantage of knowledge-based jobs, as any smart state would do to maintain a diversified job recruitment strategy. But these knowledge jobs tend to cluster close to a major research university, which doesn't help people who live in rural areas.

And that means the state has got to continue to keep a commitment to seeking good manufacturing jobs, particularly for folks who live in rural areas.

"If we don't do that for them, what will be there for them?" Morris asked.

Let's hope the Sanford administration listens and the state's new recruitment focus doesn't contribute to an erosion of a vital component of the state's economy. Voters will remember.

The color of money

This week's cartoon by our Bill McLemore:

10/26: It's our duty to question government

To the editor:

I enjoyed your latest article on the Government. not being the enemy. As a writer, it is your job to create thought provoking questions for your readers. This provocation was accomplished by taking one side of the argument to the extreme. I do not believe that there are many reasonable folks out there who believe that all taxes are bad and we should eliminate them all together.

I also do not believe our founding fathers thought that an individual who pays 50 percent of his annual income to state and federal taxes was a good thing. The intent was to get out from under a Government that taxed us without representation. In actuality, The fat cats iI believe the founding fathers did not like the Government. they were under so they decided to fight it instead of roll over and blindly trust those in power. It is our duty as Americans to question the role of our Government and to make sure they do as the folks would have them. It comes down to accountability. n Washington obviously do not feel accountable to the people they represent or they would be more concerned about how they spend the folks money.

-- Jay Auld, Bluffton, S.C.



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