S.C. Commerce chief hopeful for ‘pretty good times’ in 2013

12/15/2012 7:02 PM

12/15/2012 7:03 PM

South Carolina Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt told a Florence audience Thursday that 2013 could be a pretty good year, maybe a very good one, when it comes to economic development.

The reason behind Hitt’s thinking?

All the turmoil and uncertainty that’s turned 2012 into kind of a stinker.

“Nobody likes uncertainty,” Hitt told members of the Florence County Economic Development Partnership during the group’s annual luncheon meeting at the Southeastern Institute of Technology. “So everyone’s been holding back, not doing things they know they need to do; not making decisions they know they need to make. That’s understandable and as a result we’ve got about two years of projects queued up statewide, ready for something to happen.

“When all that finally breaks looks – and it will – we might just have some pretty good times around here,” said Hitt.

Later, Hitt said he wanted to make clear that whatever anyone else might have thought of 2012, he thought it “wasn’t a bad year.

“We’re just saying we think 2013 might be better,” he said. “We know we’re not going to have every decision go our way. But with so many projects out there, we think we’ll get our share. We do this economic development stuff pretty well.”

Hitt said the job announcements in 2013 will likely be smaller than what the state experienced the past few years. Most projects are expansions, and employers are doing more with fewer employers, or with more technology.

“That shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody,” he said. “That’s just the way it is today. It just means we have to do even more to keep up.”

Hitt said the state has been adding about 1,000 manufacturing jobs a month over the past 20 months. That leads the nation and is part of the state’s drive to return manufacturing to a larger place in the state business world.

“We know how to do this in South Carolina,” said Hitt, “and you know how to do it here in Florence and throughout the Pee Dee.”

Hitt said his department is working to develop new approaches that might bring still more jobs to the area in the future. Of particular note is a ongoing study that is looking at creating regional “brokerages” for small farmers. The brokerage businesses would offer farmers a one-stop shop, complete with marketing, refrigeration [if needed] and brokerage business that “could allow farmers to have their entire crop sold even before it comes out of the ground.

“We used to have some of that,” said Hitt, “but it got cut over the past several years. We’re looking at putting some of it back.”

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