The Sun News
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C.
South Carolina economic developers know they have a formidable opponent in their quest to lure Connecticut firearms manufacturers to the state.
The gunfight is shaping up to pit South Carolina against the state of Texas, ranked at least equal with South Carolina on residents’ fervor to uphold the Second Amendment and several notches ahead on incentives to recruit new employers. The targets, firearms manufacturers PTR Industries and Stag Arms, are both in the sights of the two states.
At stake are 308 jobs and the chance to become a magnet for other disaffected firearms manufacturers and a logical place for their suppliers to set up operations, bringing even more jobs.
“The sense I get from those companies is that Texas is a big player,” said Jeff McKay, executive director of the North Eastern Strategic Alliance, an economic development coalition of nine South Carolina counties.
Area Development magazine ranks Texas the No. 1 state and South Carolina No. 2 in overall business environment; Site Selection magazine ranked Texas No. 3 and South Carolina No. 10 in its most recent list of economic development powerhouses.
Fifty percent of Site Selection’s list is based on a survey of corporate site selectors, which chose Texas as their top dog, and 50 percent on criteria that include a state’s record of attracting capital investment, projects logged into the magazine’s new plant database and state tax burdens.
Area Development put Texas in the top spot for access to capital and project funding, speed of permitting, corporate tax environment, incentive programs and cost of doing business. South Carolina topped Texas only in the corporate state government category, where South Carolina was No. 2 and the Longhorn State was pegged No. 4. South Carolina tied for second with Alabama and Mississippi in speed of permitting, was third for incentive programs and cost of doing business and tied for fifth with Virginia on corporate tax environment.
“It is very difficult to go toe to toe with Texas on cash,” said Brad Lofton, CEO of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp. and the point man for South Carolina in the gunfight. “They have a tremendous amount of resources.”
Indeed, Texas’ economic development website — www.texaswideopenforbusiness.com — lists a plethora of ways the state will financially help new and expanding businesses.
Just one of those ways, the Texas Enterprise Fund, has since 2004 given businesses more than $450 million to create 192,478 new jobs, according to the website. There are a number of other multimillion-dollar funds that can funnel money to local economic developers, set up low interest loans for new and expanding businesses and other things.
South Carolina, whose economic development website is www.sccommerce.com, does not make the same kind of large cash payments to lure businesses or help them expand. It offers tax credits for job creation, but puts the lion’s share of its economic development money in grants to counties to develop or improve infrastructure.
According to information from the Department of Commerce, the state since 2004 has paid out nearly $261 million from economic development set-aside and rural infrastructure funds that were tied to the creation of 42,893 jobs. A small part of that was cash that went directly to an industry in what is known as closing costs.
In another recruiting arena, Texas also has the enthusiastic persona of Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican primary candidate for president in 2012, who has been unabashed in his desire to have firearms manufacturers in his state.
When PTR Industries said on its website that it planned to move from Connecticut, Perry was quick to issue a public statement that he wanted the company in Texas. He also introduced himself to Stag Arms’ CEO Mark Malkowski at a gun convention and issued a personal invitation for him to visit the state.
“Gov. Perry is very persuasive,” Malkowski said.
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