What's keeping them away?

Get ready.

Over the next several months, it’s a safe bet we’ll see the 2010 Gubernatorial Candidates work to see who can drop the word “jobs” into the most stump speeches, mail pieces and TV spots.

That’s actually a good thing because with our state presently ranked 4th in the country’s unemployment rankings, we better be talking about jobs.

The question is HOW do we attract more jobs to our state?

Many have been taking shots at the amount of time our current Governor has spent on economic development. Several folks have also taken shots at the state’s Commerce Department. While some responsibility lies in those two areas, one could argue that’s similar to taking shots at Vanderbilt’s Bobby Johnson (SC native) for not landing top-notch recruits that inevitably choose to attend other schools.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you work, there are things outside your control that limit your success. And if there’s one thing the past few months has shown, it’s that the SC General Assembly is in much control of how the state fares (good or bad).

With that in mind, my question is WHAT are the things that are limiting successful economic growth? What are things the General Assembly can do to “bring in jobs”?

As someone not afraid to say what’s on my mind (and others), I’ll throw two things out there tonight for discussion. Two things I hear from folks across our state as well as right here in our community.

First, “the Flag”. (Yes, I went there). For many in our state, the only thing more “taboo” than the flag in SC politics is school choice…and, yes, I’m going there next. So, if you haven’t thrown something at your computer yet, keep reading and maybe you can help me and our state figure this out.

Do you feel “the flag” is holding our state back? Do we know of any companies that chose to locate elsewhere because of this particular issue? Recently, we know of missed opportunities with future ACC baseball tournaments. While I wouldn’t call that economic development, it does mean lost revenue, tourism and promotion of our great state. How many other events have we missed? How many companies have chosen another state for their business because of this? If we have sufficient data to show this is hurting our state in ways we may not know; or maybe if we had sufficient commitments from companies willing to expand in our state should the climate change, we might should look into this. Would you agree?

Our perpetual low rankings in education can’t be helping either can they?

Staying with the Bobby Johnson analogy above, at least he can recruit with “your son will get an education to last a lifetime.” He has that as an asset. Does our state have the same to offer businesses looking to expand here?

No matter whom you ask, our education rankings are near bottom in the country. Surely there’s something we can do to lift this stigma and surely any lift could help economic development, couldn’t it?

In the Palmetto State the word “choice” comes in all shapes and sizes. For many in our state it means “ vouchers and tax credits only “; to others it means “ public school choice only “. Either way, nothing is getting done on either front in the General Assembly. Does this inaction mean we are satisfied with where we are as a state and do not want to do anything differently? Does it mean we can’t compromise and work together? What are your thoughts?

Tell me.

Could those two items have a direct impact on jobs in our state? If so, could Republicans/Democrats come together and address “the flag” (again) and also “school choice” (finally)? It would make for strange bedfellows, wouldn’t it? But could both parties try something different? Something bi-partisan? Crazy idea, huh? If it would indeed help our state, why not?

But if those aren’t the answers, please share what is.

Certainly looking at our corporate tax structure (or eliminating the corporate tax and replacing with elimination of certain incentives) could provide a boost too? One organization says the Palmetto State could jump to #6 in “business friendly states” with such a move. But with the Tax Realignment Commission starting soon to look at “comprehensive tax reform”, it’s even more unlikely this could be addressed than the two other items above.

Whatever the answer is, we need to be looking for it – quickly. While the 2010 legislative session won’t start until January, it’s these next few months that gives officials a chance to build the consensus needed to move legislation, and our state, foward.