Charles Warner Editor
November 7, 2013
UNION — A new brand to help promote the state, assistance for small businesses, and the importance of spec buildings to the recruitment of industry were among the issues discussed by the director of marketing and communications for the S.C. Department of Commerce during an address to the Union Rotary Club.
Allison Skipper began serving as SCDOC’s director of marketing and communications this fall and in that capacity she directs the department’s strategic initiative and serves as its spokeswoman. She was the guest speaker at Tuesday’s meeting of the Union Rotary Club during which she discussed the economic success the state has enjoyed in the past two years and its efforts to continue that success. One way the state is attempting to do that is through the development of a new brand or label to help help attract economic development.
Skipper said the rebranding process began in early 2011 when Bobby Hitt became Secretary of Commerce. She said the process involved forging a partnership with two other state agencies to create a brand that would be easily recognizable on the global scene, promote economic development, and that South Carolinians could identify with.
“He recognized the need to bring a more uniform brand to the state which would unite public and private stakeholders,” Skipper said. “At Commerce we instituted a formalized partnership with the other two primary sellling agencies of the state — PRT and the South Carolina Ports Authority.
“The goal was to create a globally recognized brand that could lead to more investment and job creation in the state,” she said. “We knew it was important to create a brand that everybody in South Carolina could find truth in and say ‘Yes, that’s how I feel about South Carolina.’”
Skipper said this was realized in the development of the “Just Right” brand.
“We like that because it captures the essence that South Carolina is more than just a state, it’s a state of mind,” Skipper said. “The idea is that South Carolina is just right for recruiting business, for attracting visitors, and is just right to live, work, and play.”
Skipper said the brand is already being put to use.
“The application of the brand is already been seen in the tourism specific areas in out of state advertising that appeals to travelers,” Skipper said. “It also is being used on billboards across the state.”
Skipper said that the SCDOC has made “Just Right for Business” its tagline and will soon be rolling it out as part of its efforts to promote economic development in the state.
During her address, Skipper also addressed what she said was the misconception that SCDOC is only interested in attracting large industries such as BMW and Boeing. She said that nothing could be further from the truth, explaining that while large industries are very important, it is small business that actually creates the overwhelming majority of the state’s private sector jobs.
“The statics show that 97 percent of the private sector employment in South Carolina is in businesses of 50 employees or less,” Skipper said. “So we have staff and services in place to assist small- and medium-size business owners. Whether it’s lender matchmaking or export assistance, the Department of Commerce has programs to assist small- to medium-size businesses.”
While the state has enjoyed enormous success in recruting industry in the last two years, Skipper said that has created what she described as a “challenge” that will have to be dealt with in order to ensure that success continues.
“One of the biggest challenges facing us is that our existing inventory of buildings is being exhausted,” Skipper said. “We have been so successful that we are now running out of product to show companies.
“That’s a good challenge to have, because it’s a sign of our success, but it is still a challenge that will have to be addressed,” she said. “We need counties, cities and the private sector to develop buildings for companies to see. It is critical that you have something to show them.”
Skipper pointed out that Union County has taken up that challenge with its plans to building a spec building and pad, thus creating product that industry wants to see when it is considering locating in a community.
“Companies want to see something tangible,” Skipper said. “An existing structure means they’ll be able to get up and running that much faster.”
Union County is planning to build a 60,000-square-foot spec building and accompanying 60,000-square-foot building pad in Commerce Park. The facilities will not only be designed to accommodate a manufacturing facility but any future expansion it undergoes.
In October, Union County Council approved second reading of an ordinance authorizing the county to issue a $2.5 million special source revenue bond. The issuance of the bond is part of the county’s application for a $2 million loan from Santee Cooper to finance the construction of the spec building and pad.
The loan is zero interest for the first five years, but in order to apply for it, the county must demonstrate its ability to repay it through the issuance of the bond. The county will use revenue generated by its multi-county industrial park agreements to cover the loan. The agreements generate more than $200,000 a year in revenue for the county.
After council voted to approve the ordinance, Union County Development Board Executive Director Andrena Powell-Baker pointed out that the lack of a spec building or other industrial space has limited the county’s appeal to industry. Powell-Baker said that 77 percent of prospective industries that request information about the county are looking for an existing building that can meet their needs. She said that the lack of a spec building means the county is only able to compete for 23 percent of the prospective industries looking for a community to do business in.
When completed, the spec building will be the third such structure built in the county. The first, which now houses Haemonetics, was built by the City of Union as was the second which houses Timken Industrial Services. The new spec building will be the first one built by the county.
Skipper said that the construction of the spec building by the county are the steps that need to be taken to enable South Carolina to continue the success it has experienced over the past two years.
“Those kinds of efforts are going to help bring business to the state,” she said.
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org