Showing posts with label economic development. Show all posts
Showing posts with label economic development. Show all posts

Unions not giving up on Boeing

The Boeing plant in North Charleston has been a sore spot with organized labor, who lost a high-profile proxy battle waged by the National Labor Relations Board to keep the airplane manufacturer from opening the plant in the first place. This action followed a vote to decertify the on-site local affiliate of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) union.

Not to be deterred by these defeats, the IAM continued its efforts to get back into the North Charleston, including hosting a meet-and-greet last fall with reportedly very low turnout.

The Charleston Post and Courier is reporting that the IAM effort is still ongoing, reporting that Tommy Mayfield, a regional IAM leader, has continued outreach efforts in an effort to organize a vote to bring a labor union into the North Charleston facility:

South Carolina's Higher Ed "con game" shortchanges students & workforce

Writing in The State newspaper, former Abbeville County State Representative Harry Stille, himself a former college professor, sounded a call for reforming higher ed in South Carolina, warning that:

For years the Legislature and universities have conned us about the value of a baccalaureate degree, when these students would have been better off in the two-year system. Our technical colleges are where the major job growth potential is.
We need to limit university admissions to students who are in the top 50 percent of each high school class, who don’t need remedial classes and who score at least 910 on the SAT or 19 on the ACT. And we should send the rest of the students to the two-year system, where they, and we, will get their money’s worth.

I couldn't agree more. I've dealt with the issues of education and workforce, both as a career human resources professional and as a six-year member of the Charleston-area Workforce Investment Board, and have found that some of the most critical workforce shortages that we're faced with in South Carolina - as well as much of the rest of the South - is among those trades which require one to two years of technical education to enter.

North Charleston, State reach deal for Charleston port rail access

A long-running battle between the state and City of North Charleston over rail access to port facilities at the site of the former Charleston Naval Base was settled earlier today, with North Charleston agreeing to end its efforts to block rail access from the north end of the facility in return for a number of concessions from the state to mitigate the impact of traffic.

A key concern was that the lack of northern rail access would leave the port dependent upon a single rail service provider, forcing the port to deal with rail rates based upon a monopoly and/or putting more of the port's shipping volume on trucks, creating additional traffic congestion. This concern was recognized by Mayor Keith Summey, who pointed out that "containers can exit our community by rail with less impact than exiting by truck".

In addition to Summey, Berkeley County State Senator Larry Grooms, who is the Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, has been the other key Lowcountry politico in these efforts, working diligently to get both sides to compromise. In talking with the Blogland, Grooms recognized the port had the right to open the northern rail access (which Summey acknowledged the port could do), but desired to see both sides reach an amicable agreement.

In addition to North Charleston ending its objections to the northern rail access to the port, other key points of the agreement include:

Low turnout greets union efforts to organize Boeing

That is unless you consider that the number of those who attended the meeting was a mere 1.3 to 1.6 percent of the company's Lowcountry workforce of 6,100 - far short of the number needed to organize the facility and not much more than the number who voted in favor of blocking the decertification of the facility when just several hundred worked there three years ago (a vote the IAM lost in a 68-199 vote).

But for all we know, they may have just attended for free food and drinks.

In any event, in spite of the very low turnout for the meeting, which followed a mailing to Boeing employees, the union plans to hold more meetings in the future to attempt to get back into the facility. Given the nastiness that erupted last year over the plant and the presence of the union in Boeing plants elsewhere, it seems likely they'll be back.

Romney energy policies "merit a closer look".

Recently, we saw an editorial in Public Utilities Fortnightly magazine, a magazine aimed at upper-level utility management (which we happen to get as well). In an op-ed in the latest issue, Editor Michael Burr lays out a strong argument for why Romney's energy policies offer paths forward for greater energy development, as well as opening doors for innovation that will broaden our available energy options:

Just as we were going to press, the Romney-Ryan campaign released an energy plan that sets forth what purports to be a bold policy goal: to achieve North American energy independence in just eight years. That goal is interesting in its own right. But it’s even more interesting against the current backdrop of economic and policy trends affecting energy and utility companies. And make no mistake, energy policy issues are heating up again ... The November elections are set for just two months after this issue of Fortnightly hits readers’ mailboxes. Given the major energy policy issues now in play, Romney’s stated positions merit a closer look.

As South Carolina's utilities struggle with federal mandates that are forcing the closure of a number of coal plants, this agenda could help boost their ability to generate power, helping augment the supply of energy which, in better days, was a major boost to economic development recruitment efforts.

When the Blogland endorsed Romney in the primary cycle, we wrote "Mitt Romney has shown the depth of knowledge needed to make sound policy decisions, a willingness to apply logic instead of shallow rhetoric to solve problems". Seeing these kinds of assessments confirm that we made the right decision then and spell out why we stand by that endorsement going into November.

Jasper Port put on hold over jurisdiction issues

The growing battle over bi-state cooperation over maritime shipping in the lower Savannah River region took another turn today when the two-state board overseeing planning for the Jasper County port facility was blocked from conducting business after a motion for an injunction was filed in Charleston courts last week. 

The injunction is in effect until October 1 unless another court hearing takes place sooner. According to Jasper port board member David Posek, the injunction was sought by the Savannah River Maritime Commission after Jasper port board members continued forward with a recent meeting. The Commission contends they have jurisdiction over the maritime shipping issues on the River. According to Posek:
We elected not to postpone the meeting, and the commission filed the temporary injunction restraining us from offering opinions or voting on any issue dealing with navigation, depth, dredging, wastewater and dredge disposal or other issues related to use of the Savannah River for oceangoing commerce.

The injunction would stop board members from voting to authorize a 2013 budget which would fund continued studies and research needed to better determine the feasibility for the Jasper port facility. These funds were allocated for planning of the Jasper port several years ago, but require board approval before being spent, which will be delayed by the injunction. 

This issue is one of several points of dispute between the two states which share the lower Savannah River region over developing the river and surrounding areas for increased maritime commerce, with the feds, Georgia and South Carolina officials and agencies battling over a number of issues, including shipping facilities and river dredging.

Senator Campbell: Long-term unemployed must volunteer in return for benefits

If Berkeley County State Senator Paul Campbell has his way, those who are long-term unemployed and are receiving unemployment benefits would have to perform volunteer community service in order to continue receiving state assistance.

Senate Bill 1049, which Campbell sponsored, has an LCI Committee hearing tomorrow, was motivated by his experience as a plant manager for Alcoa. This requirement would apply to those who were out of work twenty-six weeks (six months) after first filing for employment, and would require them to perform at least sixteen hours a week of "suitable" volunteer work in order to continue receiving assistance.

In talking with the Blogland, Campbell said he sponsored the bill because he was concerned that "it's easier to find a job if you've got one. Being out of work long-term make it difficult to get back into the job market, and if you can't get bavk to work, you, your family and your community lose out. That's the bottom line."

Senator Campbell isn't the only one who sees it that way. Being an HR person, I learned a long time ago that it's better to keep people doing something than to leave them completely idle. Once they stop working, it's harder to get them back into a job as they get out of the habits necessary for work and they stop keeping their skills current.

EPA rules threaten closure of SC power plants

Santee Cooper's Conway
coal-fired power plant
Several dozen mostly coal-fired power plants in a dozen states will be forced to shut down with several dozen more facing possible closure because of new federal air pollution regulations, according to an Associated Press survey. These changes may force Santee-Cooper, which relies upon coal-powered generation plants to generate three-quarters of its electric output, to close at least two of its coal-powered generator plants, reducing it's generating capacity by at least ten percent.

The immediate impact will cost several dozen jobs at the Conway plant, but considering the importance of the company's electric supply to several major industrial plants in the region, more jobs could be lost. Santee Cooper supplies Alcoa and Nucor Steel, along with other manufacturing plants in the region. It seems hard to imagine that reducing the utility's ability to generate power would be good for its customers. Alcoa, which operates an aluminum plant in Goose Creek, is already considering leaving, with electric rates being a key concern.

It's possible the new rules could also impact South Carolina Electric and Gas, the state's other major electricity supplier, which operates coal-fired plants in South Carolina to generate about half of its total electricity output. Presently, it's still uncertain how the new regulations will impact its capacity, but if plants were to close, it would reduce the state's capacity for some time to come - at least until the ongoing expansion of their V.C. Summer nuclear plant in Fairfield County is complete, which is several years away.

Stay tuned folks, but keep the flashlights close at hand, just in case ...

NLRB suggests union "payoff" from Boeing to keep Charleston plant open

In a back-handed response to the building storm of resistance to their efforts to force Boeing to reneg on it's commitment to open a 787 production facility in South Carolina, the NLRB said the company would be free to make planes in South Carolina so long as they committed to also make planes in Seattle, where negotiations with labor unions had failed, leaving the aerospace manufacturer with no assurances production of planes could take place.

According to The Street, Nancy Cleeland, a spokesman for the NLRB, said:

"We are not telling Boeing they can't build planes in South Carolina. We are talking about one specific piece of work: three planes a month. If they keep those three planes a month in Washington, there is no problem." Beyond the ten planes, she said, Boeing could build whatever it wants in South Carolina. 

Such a move would put the unions in control of the operations of the South Carolina plant as the number of planes they would be able to make would be controlled by the pace of production of the Seattle plant. Berkeley County State Senator Paul Campbell, a former Alcoa plant manager who was on the Boeing negotiation team, called the NLRB offer "not realistic", warning the offer was unacceptable and could force Boeing to choose between moving 787 production outside of the United States or abandon the plane altogether.

We contacted several others who were involved with the ongoing Boeing efforts and found no support for the NLRB "proposal". One source accused the NLRB of attempting to act as a taxpayer-subsidized bargaining agent for labor unions, calling it "mafia-style extortion".

Nikki Haley: Obama's Silence on Boeing Is Unacceptable

This is a republishing of an op-ed by Governor Haley which originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal challenging President Obama to explain his position on the action of the Obama-appointed National Labor Relations Board to block Boeing's North Charleston plant:

In October 2009, Boeing, long one of the best corporations in America, made an announcement that changed the economic outlook of South Carolina forever: The company's second line of 787 Dreamliners would be produced in North Charleston.

In choosing to manufacture in my state, Boeing was exercising its right as a free enterprise in a free nation to conduct business wherever it believed would best serve both the bottom line and the employees of its company. This is not a novel or complicated idea. It's called capitalism.

Boeing has since poured billions of dollars into a new, state-of-the art facility in South Carolina's picturesque Low Country along the Atlantic coast. It has created thousands of good jobs and joined the long tradition of distinguished and employee-friendly corporations that have found a home, and a partner, in the Palmetto State.

Feds besiege the Lowcountry over Boeing

This month marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, which began with Confederate forces firing on Fort Sumter.

Not to be left out of historical events, the Obama Administration, via the National Labor Relations Board, has decided to restart the siege of Charleston, via today's decision to bring an action to prevent Boeing from opening it's North Charleston plant, which is expected to begin rolling out 787 Dreamliner jets next year:

The National Labor Relations Board is seeking a court order that in effect would require Boeing Co. to move its second 787 assembly line to Washington state.

The second line is being built in North Charleston.

Haley joins the ports race

It's a war up and down the East Coast for shipping business, as the New York Times points out. The once-dominant Port of Charleston has fallen in its standings, especially to Savannah, but the need to keep up with larger ships threatens to reshuffle the deck in favor to Charleston's advantage.

They quote the incoming Governor, who seems determined to take the matter seriously:

“You now have a governor who does not like to lose,” she told a crowd at an annual dinner for the ports, which was held the same day last month that the Corps of Engineers announced the approval for the Savannah dredging. “Georgia has had their way with us for way too long, and I don’t have the patience to let it happen anymore.”

Given the importance of the Charleston port to the economy of the entire state, more forceful leadership on this matter would be a good thing.

CU-ICAR to graduate first PhD in Automotive Engineering this week

Nearly twenty years ago, when BMW made its committment to South Carolina, some visionaries predicted it would be just the first of many changes that the automotive industry would make in the Upstate.

On Thursday, another milestone in that transformative process will be reached when
John Limroth receives the first-ever PhD in Automotive Engineering from Clemson's ICAR program, based in Greenville:

John Limroth of Austin, Texas, will graduate Dec. 17 with Clemson University’s first automotive-engineering Ph.D.

Clemson launched its automotive-engineering program in 2006 at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) campus. Until fall 2009 it was the only automotive-engineering Ph.D. program in the United States listed in Peterson’s, a well-known guide to colleges and universities. The Clemson automotive-engineering program graduated nine master’s degree students in 2009. Limroth is the first to graduate with a Ph.D.

“We are very proud of John Limroth and this milestone for our automotive-engineering program,” said Tom Kurfess, Limroth’s adviser and professor and BMW Chair of Manufacturing in the mechanical engineering department at Clemson. “Our program is interdisciplinary and our students are from a wide variety of engineering and science backgrounds. They live, eat, sleep and breathe automotive engineering. We are a highly focused group that addresses systems engineering with a specific focus on the automobile. All of our courses use the automobile as our educational platform.”

Mr. Limroth has already begun work for Michelin. While he is one of the first ICAR graduates to go to work a South Carolina-based company, he won't be the last. The ability of ICAR to produce executive-track employees presents the long-term potential to make the Palmetto State even more attractive to the automotive industry.

This news should also give Clemson fans a little something to be proud of. In the wake of their recent thrashing by the Gamecocks, they could probably use some good news right about now.

Back in 2007, we talked about the importance of this program, and are pleased to see it bearing its first fruit. Dr. Limroth has our heart-felt congratulations for his accomplishment, and our appreciation for his part in helping South Carolina take another step forward in its efforts to be a competitive player in the global economy of the 21st Century.

But before his leaps into his new job, we hope he gets a couple of weeks off to enjoy some family time with his wife and kids - they've earned it.

... and the horse this guy rode in on.

Since last week's decision by Boeing to put their 787 production line in South Carolina, there has been a lot of finger-pointing in Seattle about who to blame. From the media coverage, we've skimmed, the wrath has been fixed on three targets:

  • The refusal of labor unions to negotiate
  • Boeing's management being "disloyal" to Seattle
  • Cheap, lazy and inferior South Carolina labor
Yesterday, FITSNews shared with us this cartoon penned by David Horsey of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Note the inclusion of controversial images, such as the Rebel flag, moonshine still, and a noose.

We're a little surprised he didn't throw in a burning cross and a KKK gnome while he was at it.

This cartoon embodies the sour grapes mindset which many on the left coast have taken towards Boeing's wise choice. In the interests of building a stronger relationship between Boeing management and South Carolina, the Blogland wouldn't mind if Seattle's circular firing squad keeps up the good work.

We invite our readers to
email Mr. Horsey and ask him what he was thinking.

... or to tell him "... yeah, and the horse you rode in on".

Save Greenville's University Center

Here in the Blogland, we've railed against the idiocy that has been represented by the duplication in our state's higher education system, especially by two-year "feeder" USC campuses which should have been merged into the state's technical college system, which specializes in issuing two year degrees.

But our argument is about "right-sizing" our higher education system as much as it is about "down-sizing" because higher education can play a vital role in developing our state's workforce, which is key to an economic development approach which brings quality jobs to our state, which pay higher salaries and tend to stick around longer.

The lack of a public college or university in Greenville County has never made sense to us, and this need is partially met by the University Center initiative, which is similar to the Lowcountry Graduate Center. Both facilities use collaborative approaches which cut the education bureacracy while allowing for flexibility and innovation. Needless to say, hearing that major budget cuts are planned for the University Center didn't sit well with us:

Gov. Mark Sanford's proposed $5.8 billion state budget includes cuts of $301,000 in the University Center's recurring-funds allocation for the fiscal year beginning in July. Fred Baus, president and chief executive officer of the University Center, said that would put it "in the position of going from $2.25 million to $650,000" in operating funds.

"That is not viable," he said.

Without the University Center, which serves about 2,200 students a year, Greenville would be the only major metropolitan area in the state without a public institution of higher education, he said.

Ben Haskew, chief executive of the Greater Greenville Chamber of Commerce, said, "I think closing it would be catastrophic for Greenville. We are on a mission to improve per capita income and transition to a new economy. It's all about education."

Bruce Yandle, dean emeritus of the Clemson University College of Business and Behavioral Science, said the University Center has been important and will continue to be important to the Greenville area because of the students it educates and the businesses it helps attract to the Upstate.

Without the consortium of seven universities that make up the University Center, calls would increase for a public university in Greenville County, costing a minimum of $20 million, said former Lt. Gov. Nick Theodore, member and former chairman of the center's board of visitors.

We hope the final budget will allow for the resources needed to keep this center open and operational. It's certainly a lot cheaper than building a college for the area, as well as an economic development investment that adds value to the Upstate.

South Carolina's Fields of Green

What's the biggest contributor to South Carolina's economy? Manufacturing? Tourism? Trade and distribution? Nope.

According to a new report out from the friendly folks at the S.C. Agribusiness Council and the S.C. Forestry Association, the state's agri-business sectors farming and forestry is responsible for nearly 200,000 of South Carolina's jobs, with a combined payroll in excess of $7 billion annually, doing well over $30 billion in business:

Farming and forestry constitute the leading economic cluster in South Carolina today, larger than manufacturing and tourism combined, according to a new study released by the S.C. Agribusiness Council and the S.C. Forestry Association.

The study was conducted during nine months by Harry Miley of Miley Gallo & Associates of Columbia. The research indicates that all commodities and services in modern agribusiness, taken together, make a $33.9 billion impact on the state’s economy, larger than any other sector.

As employment in other parts of the economy has declined, agribusiness is growing and now provides jobs for nearly 200,000 South Carolinians.

That means there's more green stuff produced in our state's fields and forests ain't the plants and trees than we thought.

It also means that our state's Commissioner of Agriculture oversees the biggest chunk of South Carolina's economy, making Hugh Weathers a very important guy with a lot of economic power.

Which brings us to our Question of the Day: If Mark Hammond is South Carolina's Dirty Harry, does that make Hugh Weathers our state's Al Capone?

What's BMW worth?

Tomorrow, we'll get to find out how much BMW is worth to South Carolina (we think it'll be a lot), when the USC School of Business releases the findings of an economic impact study of the automaker's Greer facility:

It is the second time the Moore School has done such a study. In 2002, the BMW impact was estimated to be about $4.1 billion, producing 16,691 jobs with wages and salaries of $691 million annually in South Carolina.

Since then, BMW has continued to expand its operations near Greer. Last March, BMW said it would invest an additional $750 million in its Spartanburg County factory to add 1.5 million square feet and 500 new jobs on site to produce three models and to increase production capacity to 240,000 units by 2012.

BMW latest investment would be the largest ever announced for the factory, increasing BMW investments in South Carolina to $4.2 billion, the company said.

Workforce Boards National Conference

Yours truly will be on the road for a few days to attend the 2008 annual National Conference of Workforce Boards in Washington, D.C.

This will be a great opportunity to meet other people like myself who are involved in workforce development from communities across the United States. Among the many workshops and seminars that I'll be attending, keynote speakers will include:

  • Daniel Pink, best-selling author and expert on innovation, competition and the changing world of work will speak at the Opening Session on Sunday morning.
  • Newt Gingrich, author, speaker and architect of the "Contract With America" will present at Monday's Keynote Session.
  • Gene B. Sperling, former National Economic Advisor to President Clinton, consultant and writer, will kick-off the closing session on Tuesday.

In addition, I plan to do some sightseeing around the city, visit some Eastern Catholic parishes around the metro area, and visit some places where I used to live out in the Maryland suburbs when I was a kid.

Looks for news and photos from the trip. I'll be leaving tomorrow.

Y'all be sure to have a great weekend!

Orangeburg County: Not the poorest in America (but darn close to it)

Last Sunday's Post and Courier included an excellent article from James Scott, which discusses the dismal situation faced by Orangeburg County, ranked as the tenth-poorest county in the United States:

Robinson's struggle is mirrored by nearly one out of every three people who call Orangeburg County home. An hour west of Charleston's mushrooming suburbs, the county of 90,000 is 10th in the nation for the percentage of people living in poverty, based on the latest U.S. Census figures for counties 65,000 and larger. Poverty is defined as a family of four having an income of $20,614 or less or individuals making $10,294 or less a year.

Compounding Orangeburg's struggle is a lack of an educated work force — only one out of 7 people have at least a bachelor's degree — and a soaring unemployment rate of 10 percent, a figure higher than Argentina's rate.

... and it's also fueled, even if nobody will admit it, by community leadership which is far more concerned about their own enrichment than serving their community, as indicated by the staggering number of government figures who have been indicted and convicted in recent years, including:
  • Two members of County Council, including their last Chairman,
  • the last Sheriff,
  • a municipal Treasurer for Orangeburg, and
  • a Police Chief and Town Clerk in Santee.
That's a lot of political jailbirds from just one county.

It can't be easy to recruit good-paying jobs to a county whose last County Council Chairman pled guilty to offering a no-bid opportunity to buy the county hospital.

All the federal pork money intended to "prime the pump" won't help a community that doesn't want to clean up it's act first, and who has a number of key public officials that are out for their own benefit, instead of that of their community. We shouldn't be surprised to find that public corruption and governmental incompetence is far more prevalent in many impoverished communities.

While there are many problems confronting poor rural areas like Orangeburg County, few of them can be addressed as easily as public corruption. Working to stomp out corruption and help make sure their public servants are looking to put public service ahead of personal enrichment is a good first step.

Taking that first step is, in part a responsibility of watchful state and federal officials, who have done an admirable and patient job weeding the county of its crooked officials. But it's also the responsibility of the people of the county, who largely give incumbents a free pass at the polls in one of the state's most one-party counties (which hasn't elected a Republican to any office since 1992).

While this is not to say one party has a monopoly on virtue (we know that's not the case), the lack of effective political competition, both inside and between political parties, isn't healthy for any community. In the case of Orangeburg County, the willingness of voters to accept the status quo been a recipe for disaster.

Cutting-edge business & academic partnerships in the Carolinas

In "Michigan needs to look south", in the Detroit News, columnist Daniel Howes looks at how the Carolinas are working to partner higher education with cutting-edge manufacturing technology development, and in doing so, is leaving Detroit behind.

The business-and-political establishment of the Carolinas is doing what their counterparts in Michigan and here on Mackinac Island are only beginning to comprehend amid a gloomy fiscal outlook: Leveraging the power of higher education drives economic growth, attracts foreign and domestic investment and improves the caliber of would-be employees.

The story discusses USC, Clemson and UNC, but pays special attention to Clemson University's ICAR:

Now, it's Clemson University in South Carolina -- not the University of Michigan -- that is home to the International Center for Automotive Research, a 200-acre campus that BMW AG built for $100 million and donated to Clemson.

More about Clemson's ICAR facility:

CU-ICAR is a new model for economic development in South Carolina, matching Clemson's strengths in automotive research with the state's strong automotive economic cluster. CU-ICAR is a 250-acre "technopolis" where BMW, Michelin, Timken, Sun Microsystems and other corporate partners are joining with Clemson to focus on automotive and motorsports research and other transportation issues. The State of South Carolina is also a key partner, having created legislation to support economic development and innovation.

At Clemson's ICAR, the latest news includes Computational Center for Mobility Systems, featuring a high performance computing (HPC) system from Sun Microsystems which will allow the center to perform cutting-edge product development for the automotive, aerospace and shipping industries, as well as the soon-to-open Carroll A. Campbell Jr. Graduate Engineering Center, which will allow Clemson to grant the first Masters and Doctoral degrees in Automotive Engineering.

This is big news indeed, and a heck of an achievement for the academic, business and governmental team partners who made this vision a reality. Also one more good reason why we need to reassess the structure and missions of our state's higher and technical education systems, so Clemson and USC can focus more aggressively in these areas.