COLUMBIA — S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley said two things at the announcement of PTR Industries’ relocation to Horry County earlier this year that a Connecticut businessman never thought he’d hear from a government official, PTR CEO Josh Fiorini told a group of the state’s businessmen Tuesday.
No. 1, he said, she compared state budgeting to business budgeting when she said the state moved money around rather than raised taxes to accommodate priorities such as attracting new businesses. Secondly, she told PTR officials and others at the ceremony in Aynor that the state stays out of the way of businesses so that they can concentrate on making money.
Neither statement was what Fiorini said he experienced in Connecticut, where his gun manufacturing plant was located and may have stayed had the state legislature not passed restrictive gun laws in the aftermath of the massacre at Newtown Elementary School.
Fiorini’s remarks came during his keynote speech Tuesday at the S.C. Chamber of Commerce’s annual Manufacturer of the Year awards luncheon in Columbia.
Otis Rawl, president and CEO of the chamber, said the organization chose Fiorini as the speaker because he was locating a new industry in a rural area of South Carolina. He also thought Fiorini would have a unique story to tell businessmen from across the state.
“Anytime you talk about a company relocating to another state, a lot of things come into play,” Rawl said.
Things such as differences in governing, taxation and culture have to be overcome in the move, and PTR’s decision to come to the Palmetto State shows that all are met in S.C., he said.
Brad Lofton, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp. who was key in Fiorini’s decision to move here, said Fiorini’s appearance at the luncheon reminds the state that Horry County now has an aggressive new economic development initiative that targets more than tourism.
At the luncheon, Graniteville Specialty Fabrics was named the small manufacturer of the year, Cox Industries won in the medium-sized category and Michelin North America walked off with the large manufacturer of the year award.
Fiorini said he and other Connecticut gun manufacturers expected some legislated response to Newtown. But what they didn’t expect was that decisions would be made without involving the manufacturers in the discussion.
He said it was a wake-up call for his and other companies.
The result at PTR was that the company took a hard look at the costs of doing business in Connecticut versus other states.
“It was a very enlightening process,” he said.
Because there was so much publicity about the company’s intention to relocate, Fiorini said PTR heard from agencies in 43 states. It couldn’t go through each proposal with a fine-tooth comb, he said. But South Carolina made the short list of those that would get a close look.
What he found, besides government that understood the importance of creating a climate where businesses can create wealth, was in Horry County good access to transportation, a good workforce and a good cost of doing business.
He lauded Horry County’s economic development effort for doing a good job of maximizing the assets it has to sell.
It’s all part of the bottom line.
“It’s cheaper here,” Fiorini said. “It’s more competitive.”
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.