South Carolina must compete in the global marketplace of the 21st century and we need a governor that knows how the world works – and can work the world for South Carolina.
If she can rise above petty politics – hers and her critics – Gov. Haley could be a great global ambassador for our state. She should travel more, not less, providing that it is productive travel focused on real results and not just more expensive airborne cocktail parties for her political cronies.
We all know that the world has changed radically. The days of an inward looking South Carolina that hopes the world will just leave us alone are long gone. Beginning in the 1960s and ’70’s we were blessed with governors that understood this global potential and aggressively sought to bring industry and investment to our state. Gov. John West visited literally dozens of foreign countries in his four short years as governor. He sowed the seeds of what is now a huge global investment in our state.
Today, there are 643 foreign affiliated companies providing over 117,000 jobs operating in our state today. We are number one nationally in foreign controlled manufacturing companies, with the greatest concentration of these along the I-85 corridor in the Upstate.
And it goes far beyond simply business and industrial development. Just one example: international tourism. When the PGA tournament was in Kiawah last week, the state spent some money doing coordinated advertising in 120 countries encouraging international tourists to come to our state. It is unclear exactly how much was spent (at least $500,000, according to press reports), as state officials seemed sheepish about revealing all the details. This is understandable as they felt they were vulnerable to political cheap shots from critics looking to score political points about spending tax dollars for advertising abroad.
We need leaders that know we need to be doing more, not less, to bring international tourists to our state. And we need leaders that have the guts to stand up and say so and face down their critics – from either party – who simply want to take political cheap shots.
The world has changed, and with instant global communications and cheap international air travel, such spending could be a wise investment that could produce real returns. One personal example: a couple years ago I was in London on business and I got into one of those famous London black cabs. When I told the cabbie my destination, I was shocked to hear him reply “South Carolina, you sound as if you have a South Carolina accent.” I was gob smacked, as the British say – I could not believe what I heard.
As it turns out, this cabbie and three of his friends take a week every year and come to Myrtle Beach and Charleston to play golf. This is a cabbie, mind you, not a member of the wealthy elite, but a working class guy who hangs around the pub drinking beer with his friends – and I guarantee you they were watching the PGA at Kiawah last week on the telly and saw the ads promoting South Carolina tourism.
The point of all this is that we need our governor and our state to play a larger, more aggressive role in the world. And, Gov. Haley could be the perfect ambassador; she’s an attractive young woman of Asian descent that is governor of a Deep South state. What a great story; the international press, to say nothing of the press of India and Asia, would go bananas over this woman.
In India alone there is a huge emerging technology industry and lots of folks there are looking for places to invest, universities to partner with on new development projects and businesses to work with to create joint ventures.
Gov. Haley would be received like rock star if she went to India – so why does she not go? My guess is that she is simply afraid of the political criticism that she thinks will result.
To the best of my knowledge, she has only made two international trips, one to Paris and the other England, each related to Boeing and international air shows. She should have gone but the problem was how she did it. On her first foray, to Paris, she took a couple of dozen staffers and cronies, spent $127k+ on lavish cocktail parties at the Ritz, stayed in five star hotels and hosted dinners in swanky roof-top restaurants.
And then, worst of all, she claimed that she closed two deals to bring jobs to our state, when in fact no such thing happened.
Of course she was blasted for such arrogant and stupid behavior, as she should have been. But the result is that now she is scared to take other trips that could yield positive results for our state.
What an irony: an unusual governor, with a unique opportunity to leverage her ethnicity and background to help our state, paralyzed by her own poor judgment and political fear, and thus unable to take advantage of her greatest assets.
Author’s Note – A few weeks ago, we did an article entitled SC’s Lost Decade. Will Folks of FitsNews had earlier done a piece with the same name and we should have credited him. Our apologies to Will.