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Gov. Nikki Haley speaks to Mount Pleasant Business and Professional members

  • Wednesday, June 18, 2014

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Mount Pleasant Business Association President Jon Chalfie PHOTOS BY SULLY WITTE

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The 116th Governor of the State of South Carolina spoke to members of the Mount Pleasant Business and Professional Association last week just hours before returning to Columbia to swear in Yancey McGill as the state’s new lieutenant governor.

She told members her first priority when she took office was to turn South Carolina into a customer service state. And while employees of the state were not thrilled to answer phones with “It’s a great day in South Carolina,” she wanted them to be proud of where they worked and to remember who they worked for – the state’s citizens.

According to Haley, she has served on the premise that time is money and Team South Carolina went to work on lifting up all counties and towns in the state so that the state as a whole could compete with other southeastern states in all areas.

As of this month, South Carolina is proving itself as a true competitor with four large companies putting down roots from Chester to Fort Mill.

For example, LPL Financial announced plans to construct a new regional headquarters, relocating more than 1,000 employees from Charlotte, North Carolina less than 20 miles from Fort Mill, South Carolina, with plans to add 2,000 new jobs.

Haley told the enthusiastic audience that during her tenure as governor, $13.5 billion has been invested in the State of South Carolina.

“Every area of South Carolina is feeling it,” she said.

Areas of progress are also being shown in unemployment numbers, she said. South Carolina boasts a 5.3-percent unemployment rate, which is remarkable considering 95 percent of South Carolina businesses are run by small-business owners.

Haley wants to eliminate the income tax altogether but so far has only been successful in reducing small-business income taxes by 3 percent.

In February 2012, South Carolina officials began becoming academy-trained in all aspects of the ACT initiative. To help meet the needs of businesses for qualified workers, South Carolina partnered in a job training initiative with the testing company ACT that will better match workers with businesses that need them. At the time, South Carolina was among four states where ACT was launching its Certified Work Ready Communities Initiative, which involves several tests that measure an individual’s job-related skills. The first county to become nationally certified was Clarendon County followed by Colleton and McCormick counties.

According to Haley, the state gave every county a chance to have skin in the game and even the smaller counties stepped up to prove they were major players.

In addition, Haley said she saw that South Carolina had a welfare problem where recipients were simply given their checks. Currently, they’re asked what skill set they have and matched with a business.

So far, she said, the system has gotten 20,000 people off of welfare and put them to work. It’s called “welfare to work” and the same is happening with food stamps and prison releases.

South Carolina boasts the fastest growing economy on the East Coast, she said, and the state’s been tagged the “Beast of the East.”

To keep the moniker, officials must focus on beefing up infrastructure annually as well as port initiatives, rail roads and the inland port. South Carolina is doing very well in that regard, she explained.

“Product to market matters,” she said. “The problem is that the legislature is looking at this success like it happened on its own, but that success came from a lot of hard work from Team South Carolina.

Gov. Haley was none too pleased with the legislature giving themselves 53-percent pay and pension increases and told them should they pass the motion she would veto it.

Haley did go on to veto the legislative pay increase, an effort led by House Speaker Bobby Harrell. Her veto was ultimately upheld by a Senate vote of 10-32. The vote carried without debate from the Senate.

“We passed the largest education reform in a decade,” said Haley and officials rejected Common Core and work has already begun on South Carolina standards for education. Measures will account for poverty, she said, and no child will be allowed to pass the third grade if they cannot read.

Reading coaches will be in place at every school to ensure that. Technology will be upgraded to be consistent across districts, resulting in a one-to-one computer ratio.

Every summer, she said, new education reform will be put into action.

The Department of Social Services will be seeing reform as well. “It’s hard to keep children safe from their own parents, in some instances,” she said.

Improvements will be focused in the areas of better quality foster families, a proactive law enforcement presence and increased partnerships in the overall system.

She left the group with a parting message of staying ahead of growth and managing it smartly.

Specific to Mount Pleasant, the fastest growing area in the state, she urged leaders and citizens to get in front of the growth by maintaining and improving infrastructure.

Companies won’t come without the proper attention to infrastructure and low costs of utilities, she explained.

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