Category Archives: EcoDevo

Forum Friday on Bull Street development

Bull street flier

As some of you may know I serve on the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council. We’re about fostering constructive, civil conversations about issues facing the community. As you also may know, we’ve sponsored some forums over the years on such issues as the Penny Tax and strong mayor referenda, as well as candidate forums.

Lately, we’ve started a monthly series of informal discussions on “Hot Topics” that are current in the community.

This month, after reading Jeff Wilkinson’s recent story on how the Bull Street development was coming, we decided to sponsor a session on that, and it will be at noon tomorrow (Friday) at the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce offices.

I’ll moderate the discussion. Panelists include:

  • Howard Duvall – The city councilman who ran as a Bull Street skeptic, who is now invested in its success as chair of the Bull Street Commission.
  • Jim Reid – I don’t have info on Jim, but am told he’s an active Columbia resident who has been interested in the project.
  • Bill Leidinger- a former city councilman and city manager of Richmond, VA. Retired to Columbia. Helped build semipro stadium in Richmond with no tax dollars.
  • Elizabeth Marks – VP of Columbia coalition of downtown neighborhoods.
  • Rusty DePass – Everybody knows Rusty. Bull Street skeptic who, from what I hear, hasn’t converted — but I’ll find out tomorrow.
  • Robert Hughes – President of Hughes Development of Greenville, master developer of the project.
  • Chandler Thompson, also from Hughes Development.

I have no idea who, if anyone, will come out to hear the discussion or ask questions of the panel, but if you’re interested, come on out.

I’d tell you more, but I haven’t been the organizer — I’m just moderating. So this is all I know. I’ll show up and see how it goes.

Just be civil, just like on the blog…

Bull Street Update: There’s baseball, and, um… there’s baseball…

Bull Street is coming along fine. It's got baseball...

Bull Street is coming along fine. It’s got baseball…

Having seen this story in The State today:

Most members of the Bull Street Commission, a seven-member board appointed by Columbia City Council, said Monday that they are satisfied with progress at the former State Hospital despite raised expectations of a sprawling retail complex that so far have not materialized.

“I still feel the project is coming along at a reasonable pace,” said member Rebecca Haynes, a former president of the Earlewood Community Citizens Organization. “I think it’s way too early in a 20-year project for anyone to start throwing stones.”…

… I was wondering what y’all thought about how the development is going.

All I’ve really seen so far is baseball, but then, I keep telling y’all to be patient on the Innovista concept, so do I have room to talk?

Anyway, if all you’ve got to show is baseball, is that so bad? It’s better than what they’ve got going at Williams-Brice, in my book…

... and also baseball.

… and also baseball.

Churches promote ‘Night of Joy’ at new ballpark

My old friend Bob McAlister asked me to promote this on the blog, and I thought, “Why not?”

First Baptist Church of Columbia and Brookland Baptist Church will combine choirs, orchestras and congregations on Sunday, April 10, 2016, at 6:30 p.m. for Night of Joy, an inaugural event at the new Spirit Communications Park on Bull Street. Joining these churches will be Village Church and The New Laurel Street Missionary Baptist Church. The concert will also feature song selections from combined children’s choirs from all four churches, the Brookland Baptist Men’s Choir, the Capital City Chorale, and the Praise Band from Village Church.

From the tragedy at Mother Emmanuel to the October flood, South Carolina is on the path to recovery and being stronger than ever because we have leaned on our faith and learned to lean on each other, regardless of race. We invite all members of the Columbia community to join us for this free event as we celebrate on April 10, 2016, for a Night of Joy.

“Our churches have a habit of coming together to glorify our Lord and Savior and we are looking forward to lifting our voices up to celebrate Jesus at the stadium on Bull Street,” said Dr. Wendell Estep, Pastor of First Baptist Church Columbia.

“We are delighted to bring our churches together at Spirit Communications Park to praise the Lord and have the opportunity to fill the stadium with prayer before the Fireflies get their season started,” said Dr. Charles Jackson, Sr., Pastor of Brookland Baptist Church.

Night of Joy will be the inaugural event at Spirit Communications Park, truly showcasing the stadium’s mixed-use functionality. “We wanted to build a facility like Spirit Communications Park for this very reason. Our intent is for this facility to be utilized by the Columbia community far beyond playing baseball,” said Jason Freier, owner of the MiLB Franchise the Columbia Fireflies who will be playing at Spirit Communications Park. -###-

Bob’s interests in this are: He’s a member (I think) of First Baptist, and his firm does communications for the folks developing Bull Street….

First, small part of first penny project opens

Well, that was quick. Seems like I just saw them starting on this. At the same time, I guess I should say it’s about time, and when will you finish? — I first heard about plans to do this at least 10 years ago, as part of the general pitch about the Innovista.

The first piece of the project to turn Greene Street into a pedestrian-friendly corridor reaching down to the river is now open to use. Of course, there’s not much to see until the whole thing is done:

The initial phase of the Innovista project, which will eventually link the University of South Carolina campus to Columbia’s riverfront, has opened to vehicular and pedestrian traffic, according to Swansea-based contractor LAD Corp.

The project is part of the first major construction to use the Richland County’s penny sales tax program, which was designed for transportation improvements. The Greene Street transformation has been in the works for the last decade.

The $10 million first phase involves a section of Greene Street between Assembly and Park streets, running between the Koger Center and USC’s Darla Moore School of Business….

So on the one hand, we have the scandal over the penny revenues, the full scope of which we have yet to know.

On the other, we have one small, concrete thing having been partly accomplished.

This raises the question — so… How’s it coming on developing a riverside park for the other end of this?

Growing South Carolina’s car-manufacturing industry

It occurs to me that I should make myself do more short contact-report-type posts, whenever I run into a newsmaker and pick up a tidbit.

So here’s one….

Yesterday, I ran into Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt (my long-ago managing editor) getting on the elevator heading up to his office. I expressed surprise that he wasn’t on his way to Germany with the governor.

He said he wasn’t needed on this trip. Anyway, he figures he’s done the trek to Germany enough, what with his years with BMW after he left the paper.

Noting that the trip is about building relationships with automobile manufacturing suppliers, he gave me his elevator speech on that topic before he got out on the 16th floor: South Carolina is now home to 250 such suppliers — 80 of them added since he’s been at Commerce.

I stuck out my hand and congratulated him on that. After all, one wants to encourage that kind of success.

They’re boxy, but they’re good: Welcome to Volvo!

At least, they used to be boxy, and that’s the way I still think of them. Lately, I’ve seen some Volvos that I could hardly tell from other cars, and they just don’t have the same cachet.

Here’s hoping they make some boxy ones here in SC:

Volvo announced Monday that it will build a $500 million factory in Berkeley County to produce 100,000 cars a year.

Construction on the Swedish automaker’s first U.S. plant will start this fall with the first cars produced in 2018. The South Carolina plant will add to four Volvo factories in Europe and China, where the automaker’s parent company is based.

Volvo usually makes two models of vehicles at its plants, company spokesman Jim Nichols said. but the automaker has not decided which models will be built in South Carolina.

Volvo could employ up to 2,000 workers in the decade after the plant opens and another 2,000 by 2030, the S.C. Department of Commerce said. The state employs 46,000 automotive-industry workers, including at hundreds of suppliers, according to the S.C. Automotive Council….

I only have one concern: These things last forever. My wife’s still driving the 1998 model she inherited from her Dad, and it’s going strong. How many of these cars are we going to be able to sell if they never break down?

But I kid. I’m a kidder. First BMW, then Boeing, now this. I love the image of South Carolina as a place that builds high-quality rides…

Ground broken on Bull Street ballpark

This just in from those promoting the Bull Street development:

“Today we break ground; In April of 2016, we’ll play ball!”

This morning, Columbia came together to ceremoniously break ground on Spirit Communications Park.  The park will be a state-of-the-art multi-use sports and entertainment venue home to an affiliated Minor League Baseball team in April, 2016.
 

“This is a milestone day for our entire city,” Mayor Benjamin said. “It’s taken hard work by many to make this possible, and more hard work is still in store, but our vision for a more vibrant Columbia is coming closer and closer to fruition. The countdown is now on to Opening Day in 2016.”
 
“It’s exciting to think about how Spirit Communications Park will add to what is already one of America’s great cities,” said Freier, who was at a similar groundbreaking for Parkview Field in Fort Wayne, Ind., in 2007. Parkview Field has since been named the “No. 1 Ballpark Experience” in Minor League Baseball in three of the past four years. 
 
Spirit Communications Park will anchor development at Columbia Common, the new gateway to Downtown Columbia. The 181-acre Columbia Common, under the guidance of master developer Hughes Development, is primed to become the ultimate live-work-play community in the region. 
 

“We’ve seen this kind of development centered around a ballpark work throughout the country, including not so far away from Columbia,” said Bob Hughes, who led a similar project a decade ago around Fluor Field in Greenville. “Folks in Columbia are in for a treat with Spirit Communications Park.” 
 
We can expect more than 900 jobs to be created during the construction of the ballpark. Once complete, Columbia’s professional baseball team will bring on approximately 35 full-time and 550 part-time employees.
 
This park would not be possible with out support from people like you; people who gave their time and energy to support Building Bull Street. Let’s play ball!

This morning’s CRBR legislative panel

Sen. Joel Lourie, Rep. Nathan Ballentine, Rep. Beth Bernstein, and Otis Rawl of the state Chamber.

Sen. Joel Lourie, Rep. Nathan Ballentine, Rep. Beth Bernstein, and Otis Rawl of the state Chamber.

I went to this morning’s “Legislative Lowdown” breakfast sponsored by the Columbia Regional Business Report. I waited and let Chuck Crumbo go ahead and write about it, since he gets paid to, and here’s his report. Use that as a baseline.

The panel was the same as this one in 2010, only with Rep. Beth Bernstein in place of Rep. James Smith.

Here are a few random impressions I formed:

First, while I think these annual sessions have been highly informative and fair to all viewpoints, CRBR should probably make an extra effort to get more Republicans on the panel, just to more accurately reflect realities. I wouldn’t take any of the Democrats away; I’d add a couple more Republicans — maybe Kenny Bingham and John Courson, or Katrina Shealy.

Here’s the one thing I Tweeted out during the session:

Otis wasn’t saying we shouldn’t have ethics reform, but he certainly seemed to regard it as a distraction, as a plate of vegetables with no meat, saying, “I know they’ve got to do this,” but… His tone reminded me of the bank examiner in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Remember George Bailey, all animated, telling him about the fact that his brother is going to the White House to receive the Medal of Honor from the president, and the bank examiner says, without a shred of interest, “Well, I guess they do those things….”

Well, that’s Otis being told about ethics reform. He supposes legislators have to get this ethics stuff out of their system, but he’ll be glad when they’re done and move on from it.

Now in his defense, he sees the urgent need for workforce preparation, infrastructure and other things that bear on our economic well-being, and he should be focused on those things. But he was really a wet blanket on the ethics stuff.

Others were more interested in the topic. Rep. Bernstein predicted that, again, the sticking point will be independent oversight, instead of lawmakers policing themselves. She said that was key, but signaled willingness in a pinch to accept a “hybrid” approach, with some lawmaker participation.

On Medicaid expansion, Sen. Joel Lourie said two things that interested me. First that Christian Soura, the guy Nikki Haley just appointed to replace Tony Keck at HHS despite his never having done anything like that, is a very impressive guy. I’ve gotta meet this guy, if Joel thinks that. Or at the least, hear an elaboration on what impressed Joel. Then, he said he appreciates the position of those who oppose Medicaid expansion because they’re worried about the state having to pay 10 percent of the cost after three years. I usually don’t hear Democrats say things like that.

As Chuck noted in the lede of his report, there was pretty much a consensus that for lawmakers to act meaningfully on paying for roads, there would have to be a lot of pressure on them from outside the State House. Sen. Lourie said there are three kinds of people in the Legislature on this — those who clearly see the need to come up with road funding, those who can maybe be talked into it, and “the not no, but ‘hell no’ group.” Republican Nathan Ballentine said that was accurate, and “The majority in the House, the majority in my party, are in the ‘hell no’ category.” He says he’s not afraid of raising the gas tax, and noted that he voted for the cigarette tax increase awhile back. But getting the rest to go along will take heavy lifting, especially with the governor’s veto threat. There was discussion of raising fees for driver’s licenses. Otis Rawl noted that we only pay about $2 a year for those, and certainly, he asserted, it’s worth more than that for our families to travel on safe roads (and for our goods to get to market, he was quick to add).

It was predicted that roads, ethics and one other matter — reacting to the Supreme Court decision saying the Legislature hasn’t done enough to educate children in poor, rural districts — will dominate the session. The general consensus among these suburban lawmakers was that whatever is done for the poor, rural districts, it not be taken away from the affluent suburban districts. Which to me indicates more money would have to come into state coffers, although I didn’t hear anyone say that overtly.

And of course, more than money is needed. After talking about how bad things are in Marion County, Sen. Lourie said, “Maybe we don’t need three districts in Marion County.”

That caused me to break my rule about not asking questions at such events. I rose to suggest that everyone talks about school district consolidation until it strikes close to home. I agree that there shouldn’t be three districts in Marion County, but I asked, “should there be three districts in Richland County, and five in Lexington?”

He actually had a good answer. As he said, if the state is going to help out Marion County in ways that Richland and Lexington districts aren’t asking it to do and don’t need it to do, then there’s an extra expectation that Marion should do some things it can do on its own — like getting rid of duplicative administration. Rep. Ballentine agreed, saying there’s a much greater imperative to consolidate in districts with fewer students total than you would find in a single school in the city.

Yes, they’re right. The case for consolidation is much more compelling in the rural districts. But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a good thing in the big counties, as well.

Anyway, that’s my rambling report…

 

How much weight should we give to bad jobs news in SC?

tumblr_inline_ne0b8ni5Iw1r3abgt

The state Democratic Party has been sending out a steady stream of bad SC jobs news as a way of undercutting Nikki Haley’s big strength — the narrative that, whatever else you think of her, she’s done a good job of recruiting jobs for the state.

I’ve been inclined to ignore these, because, let’s face it — companies are always going as well as coming, or shrinking as well as growing, and you can’t disprove a trend with anecdotal evidence.

Also, you have to wonder how seriously the party takes these bad-news announcements, since on the “Haley’s Smoke and Mirrors” website, they accompany each one with a cutesy GIF, like the one above. As a guy who’s spent a good bit of time unemployed after being laid off, I find myself wondering what’s so funny about these situations. Even if the overall trend in SC is good, each of these items is very bad news for some individual South Carolinians.

But in the last few days, the sheer volume of these news items has worn away my doubts to the point that I’m wondering whether this is an unusually bad streak of developments.

I don’t know. But you can peruse them at the website. And here are the headlines of the last 11 such releases I’ve received, over just the second half of this month:

  1. PTR Announces Layoffs One Week After Haley Visit
  2. SC’s economy slows, jobless rate jumps
  3. S.C. foreclosure filings above national average despite 11% decrease
  4. Jobless rate now highest in state
  5. S.C.jobless rate up to 6.6 percent in September
  6. Bi-Lo to cut jobs at former Mauldin headquarters
  7. Heinz to close Florence facility employing 200 workers
  8. Truth Check: Is SC’s economy ‘one of fastest growing on East Coast’?
  9. 200 to lose jobs as Orangeburg plant closes
  10. Major Upstate employer announces relocation to NC
  11. GE Prepares Global Layoffs, Some Greenville Jobs Affected

OK, one of those is out of place — Jobless rate now highest in state — since some part of the state will always be the highest in the state, regardless of how good things are. But the other 10 provide a fairly steady drumbeat of actual bad news.

Now, here’s a HUGE grain of salt: These were not real-time announcements. They were from over a much-longer period of time than the dates of the releases would indicate. Some weren’t even from this year. So consider that.

By the way, did you make the connection on that first one? That’s the gun manufacturer that caused our governor’s eyes to light up so…

Nikki gun

So which is it? Is SC economy in the tank, or doing great?

Apparently riffing on a release sent out by the SC Democratic Party, Will Folks writes:

Is it a “great day in South Carolina?”

Not if you live in Cheraw or Bennettsville, S.C.  These two rural towns are reeling after a recent announcement from Bi-Lo – a regional grocery store chain that operates roughly 200 supermarkets in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

According to reporter Mary Edwards of WMBF TV (NBC – Myrtle Beach/ Florence, S.C.), Bi-Lo is shutting down stores in Cheraw and Bennettsville – a move that will leave 130 employees out of work.

The job losses are coming sooner rather than later, too, with the store’s regional public relations manager telling Edwards the stores will be closing prior to November 19 of this year.

Happy Thanksgiving, right?…

Remember Colonial Stores?

Remember Colonial Stores?

As a native of Bennettsville, I can remember when it had a thriving retail environment, with a bustling Main Street and several supermarkets in the downtown area — Winn-Dixie, Colonial (anybody remember Colonial Stores?), an A&P, and later, a Harris Teeter.

Not so much anymore. I haven’t counted the grocery stores lately, but it’s been awhile since downtown has been what it was.

But the view can still look pretty good from Columbia, as Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt writes today in The State — and he has plenty of facts on his side:

By any measure, South Carolina is on a roll. Over the past four years, we have been making major gains — gains that are bringing economic stability and opportunity to communities across the state.bobby_hitt_110111

We’ve celebrated big recruitment wins, including announcements by the world’s top automotive and aerospace companies, boosted opportunities for small businesses and created an environment that encourages existing industry to continue expanding in our state.

The facts are clear: Trend lines show unemployment on the decline while the number of South Carolinians working has risen to historic highs. Our economy is humming, and companies around the world are choosing South Carolina as a place where they can succeed….

That team approach starts at the top, with Gov. Nikki Haley personally invested and fully integrated in what we’re doing, meeting and speaking with prospects or our existing companies. As the CEO of the state, she understands the importance of customer service and a personal touch. In fact, one thing we hear from clients all over the world is that she readily gives them her cell phone number and says to call her with any issues….

So which is it? Is our economy in the dumps, or thriving?

Haley really needs you to feel good about SC economy

Dems are heavily pushing the idea that Haley's ecodevo success story is "smoke and mirrors."

Dems are heavily pushing the idea that Haley’s ecodevo success story is “smoke and mirrors.”

Did you see Andy Shain’s piece in The State over the weekend, digging into just how good a job Nikki Haley has really done on economic development? A key excerpt:

Some of Haley’s economic claims and numbers are inflated, The State newspaper found in an analysis of jobs announcements and federal data:

  • While political scientists say most voters think the 57,000 jobs that Haley mentions in speeches have been filled, only a little more than half of the jobs announced in 2011 and 2012 exist, according to a survey by the newspaper of major economic development announcements made during Haley’s first two years in office.
  • Haley’s 57,000 announced-job figure also includes businesses that never opened, or opened and then closed, based on a list provided by the S.C. Department of Commerce this summer. Her tally also includes 4,350 jobs — nearly 8 percent of the total — for stores planned by Wal-Mart. Low-paying retail jobs typically are not part of economic development tallies.
  • And contrary to a Haley claim, South Carolina has not had the East Coast’s fastest-growing economy since 2011, according to revised federal data.

I don’t know, quite honestly, what to think after reading that. I mean, would we have seen the same thing under previous administrations — total jobs not equaling the announced number, two or three years later? Yes, I think so. This has been a constant refrain for a lot more years than Nikki Haley has been in office — boosters make excited predictions, which aren’t always borne out in the end.

Of course, if you want the state’s economy to grow, you do tout announcements and make a big deal of them because you’re trying to create a bandwagon effect — giving the impression that your state is attracting growing businesses, because you want other growing businesses to see SC as a happening place. And you’re not lying, or even exaggerating — you’re passing on the numbers offered by the growing or moving businesses themselves. Big plans don’t always pan out. Doesn’t mean anyone was lying.

But these numbers are particularly important in the case of Nikki Haley, as is pointed out later in the story:

Political observers said they are not surprised Haley is focusing on her economic record as her strong suit for her re-election bid.

“What else is she known for?” said Neal Thigpen, a retired Francis Marion University political scientist. “It may be her only biggest suit.”…

Ignore the odd wording in that quote (“her only biggest suit?”) and think about that. Really, what else does Nikki Haley have to point to? I mean, when you hear the idiotic narrative from some of her supporters, you have to laugh — that because she did the books for her parents’ small business (a business that had trouble paying taxes on time) she is some kind of business mogul, with all kinds of real-world experience that a “trial lawyer” lacks. Never mind that through his law practice, Vincent Sheheen has been a considerably more successful businessman than Nikki Haley ever dreamed of being.

She really needs to be seen as an ecodevo powerhouse in office, because her record is otherwise so thin on accomplishments, both before and after she became governor.

This is her main accomplishment, ever. So it’s natural that she would make a big deal about it — and that Democrats would go to such lengths to question it. And while political opponents often pose such questions, such challenges are particularly critical in her case, because the numbers loom so large in her legend.

Nikki Haley’s progression from backbench bomb-thrower to Establishment figure

Kristin Sosanie over at the state Democratic Party resurrects this from the archives today:

Well, this could be awkward. Today Nikki Haley is holding campaign events with the SC Chamber of Commerce, but take a look at how she slammed them less than four years ago:

‘The state Chamber is a big fan of bailouts and corporate welfare, so it’s no surprise that they would prefer a liberal like Vincent Sheheen over a conservative like Nikki Haley,’ Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said earlier this week, according to the AP.”

Question of the day: Do Nikki Haley and her staff still think the state Chamber is “a big fan of bailouts and corporate welfare.”?

Well, we know that she doesn’t. Or at least, wouldn’t say so now. And that has implications that extend far beyond her relationship with business leadership, and point to why the incumbent is a more formidable opponent for Vincent Sheheen than when she barely squeaked by him four years ago.

That petulant statement from Rob Godfrey was standard operating procedure for the Haley team back then. She was all about being the darling of the Tea Party, the Southern answer to Sarah Palin, “going rogue” by slapping at the Establishment as much as at perceived “liberals.”

She’s learned better since then. The successes of Bobby Hitt’s Commerce Department (for which she can legitimately claim credit, since she chose Bobby) has more than persuaded her that embracing the economic development community is her best path to continued electoral success.

Along with that shift from the fringes to the establishment has come a significant shift in communication style.

I touched on this in a post a couple of days ago, one which y’all seem to have utterly ignored (whine, mutter, moan). That mature, professional, focused op-ed piece was a real departure from the style of the Nikki Haley who threw red meat to the Tea Partiers. It stands 180 degrees from that Godfrey quote four years ago, which accurately reflected the attitudes of the Haley camp at the time.

I urge you to go look at it again. Yes, I know I’m reading a lot into style and tone, but that’s what I do. And I’m telling you, this new mode of expression reflects a strategic shift for Nikki Haley. And this is significant…

Haley wants Atlantic Beach to be the way it was in the 1940s. But I think she means that in a GOOD way…

tn_1200_Atlantic_Beach_Bikers_Weekend_17.jpg

You know, you could take this observation from our governor in a very negative way:

— Gov. Nikki Haley and Atlantic Beach officials remain at a standoff regarding the future of Atlantic Beach Memorial Day Bikefest after a meeting Tuesday morning.

Haley said she would like to see Atlantic Beach return to what it was in the 1940s when there were bustling businesses, hotels and attractions and is willing to help the transformation with state funding – if town officials end Bikefest.

“When I look at Atlantic Beach the feeling I have is pride,” Haley told town council members. “When I look at Atlantic Beach the feeling I have is history. … We need to find a way to make sure that this is a destination spot for all of the people from all over this country to [want to visit].”

But Atlantic Beach officials say that while they resepct and appreciate the governor’s opinion, they still have no plans to end Bikefest….

Um, the way it was in the 1940s? You mean, when black folks weren’t welcome on the “white” beaches, and Atlantic Beach was the only place they could go enjoy sand and surf?

But I don’t think she means that. I think she means Atlantic Beach should be proud that it was a welcoming place for black families, a wholesome place for folks to vacation with their kids.

As opposed to what it is now, during Black Biker Week each year.

I applaud the governor’s efforts to do something about an event in South Carolina that this year led to three people getting killed and seven injured in eight shootings. That’s enough to make anyone long for halcyon days. And I think she meant it in a good way….

SC GOP leaders back reauthorization of Ex-Im Bank

South Carolina’s top Republicans are all signing on for reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, breaking with the “conservative” wing of their party in the U.S. House:

Governor Haley, Senators Graham and Scott Support Ex-Im Bank Reauthorization

WASHINGTON – South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott have written to congressional leaders in the House of Representatives and Senate expressing support for the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.

“As elected officials from a state where thousands of hardworking families benefit from exports, we urge you to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) before its charter expires this year,” wrote Haley, Graham and Scott.  “As the official export credit agency of the United States, Ex-Im is a vital export finance tool to the businesses in our state – at no cost to American taxpayers.

“Ex-Im allows South Carolina businesses to compete globally on a level playing field.  Without Ex-Im our local businesses would be forced into a global market with foreign competitors that receive extensive support from their own export credit programs.  Allowing Ex-Im to expire will deliberately disadvantage American businesses and lead to increased unemployment.”

#####

This shouldn’t be surprising, for two reasons:

  1. The Ex-Im Bank is hugely important to Boeing, which is in turn hugely important to SC politicos.
  2. The GOP sentiment for shutting it down seems pretty much confined to the extreme wing in the House, and outside advocacy groups. Senate Republicans are broadly supporting reauthorization.

Graham secures funds for deepening Charleston harbor

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Now that he’s gotten that GOP primary inconvenience out of the way, he can get back to doing the job that South Carolinians send folk to Congress for:

Graham Secures Charleston Harbor Deepening Funds

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), a member of the Senate Appropriations Energy & Water subcommittee, applauded the passage of its FY 2015 appropriations bill which contains funding for the Charleston Harbor Deepening Feasibility Study and design and construction of the Charleston Port.

“This is a very good day for the Port of Charleston,” said Graham, a member of the subcommittee.  “I’m pleased my Republican and Democrat Senate colleagues understood the value of the Port of Charleston and fully funded the port even though the Corps of Engineers, as a whole, received a budget reduction.  We also added language to the bill that will streamline moving from the study phase to the engineering and design phase of this project.  I think this speaks volumes about the value of the Charleston Port to the state, region, and country as a whole.”

Graham noted the legislation contains $695,000 for continuing the Army Corps of Engineers feasibility study of deepening Charleston Harbor, $1.572 million for future harbor deepening construction, and $13.149 million for continued harbor operations and maintenance.

Graham was an early and ardent advocate for deepening Charleston Harbor and has fought repeatedly to secure federal authorization and funding for the project. The legislation passed through subcommittee yesterday and is expected to pass the full committee this week.

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Not that I’m being critical of his bringing home the bacon. No Tea Partier am I. Securing funding for deepening the port upon which our state depends so greatly is a good thing.

So good work, senator…

Yo, Columbia: Does this look familiar to you at all?

It was kind of weird that, on the same day that I attended the presentation on Bull Street, I saw this Tweet out of Aiken:

Does that aerial view look at all familiar to you? It does to me. Here’s a story providing background on the project in question.

Sort of makes me think there’s a Music Man going from town to town in SC, singing, “Yeah, we’ve got baseball, right here in River City…

They say baseball will be very, very good to us

baseball talk

Seated are, from left to right, Mayor Steve Benjamin, developer Bob Hughes and moderator Jim Hammond.

This morning’s edition of Columbia Regional Business Report’s “Power Breakfast” series featured Mayor Steve Benjamin and developer Bob Hughes talking up Bull Street and baseball.

tie

Don’t read too much into the tie.

I had overslept and dressed in a rush for the hyper-early event, and didn’t realize until I got there that I had worn my tie with the layouts of classic Major League ballparks on it. As I hastily explained to Mike Fitts when I saw him there, this should not be construed as a sign of support on my part. I’m still sort of ambivalent about this thing. I, too, think minor league baseball could be very, very good to us, but I always wanted it down by the river, so… I don’t know how I feel about this consolation prize.

Also, I don’t know what to think about Bull Street overall, and I think part of the reason for that is that I still find it hard to envision. I get what Mr. Hughes says about the specifics of what will actually be there and how it will ultimately look will develop in an “organic” manner over the next couple of decades, and will largely be driven by market forces. But that makes it hard for me, and others, to make up our minds about it. Which, I know, has been infinitely frustrating to the mayor, who believes, as he reiterated, that we have to stop “kicking the can down the road” on this unique urban fixer-upper opportunity.

Anyway, here are some things that came up that seemed of interest to me:

  • Hughes talked the concept of “placemaking,” a concept that sounds to me a bit like the “third place” that Starbucks has always striven to be. He described it as a place where, if you arrange to meet someone there, you don’t mind if that person is late, “because there’s something to engage your mind.” In any case, we were invited to think of the Bull Street redevelopment, and I suppose the ballpark in particular, as an exercise in “placemaking.”
  • As a representative of ADCO, I wasn’t too thrilled with his complaint that “I’m tired of Columbia always making excuses for being hot.” He said it’s 6 degrees cooler than Dallas here, and this development is about showing people in a concrete way how much cooler we are.
  • The mayor again made his point that we have to stop thinking of ourselves as the “compromise… government town.” All the governmental entities that contribute to our local economy are awesome, he said, but they don’t pay property taxes. He thinks the city needs to be known to the private sector as a place that “aggressively seeks your capital and treats it well while it’s here.”
  • Benjamin observed that increasingly, people don’t move to a city because they found a job there; they move to a place where they want to live, and seek employment opportunities in that place. This development is about creating that kind of place. Hughes spoke of our local institutions of higher education as places that will crank out residents for Bull Street: “You’re graduating each year more people for this development.”
  • The ballpark was repeatedly touted as a necessary spark to draw the rest of the kind of development that will be needed for the project to succeed. Not having it, in the minds of potential investors/developers, would have been a deal-breaker, Hughes asserted. Now that it’s a done deal, everything can proceed.
  • Hughes invites people who want to be part of the development to “Bring me something you want to build.” That’s because “We cannot do Bull Street by ourselves;” the billion-dollar investment would be too much. He’s seeking “a diversified team of developers.”
  • He said more and more such developers are interested, even enthusiastic: At recent development gatherings across the country, the questions his team gets from potential developers have changed in a positive direction, going from “Why would I want to go to Columbia?” to “How big can my sign be?” and “When will the first pitch” be thrown in the ballpark.
  • But for the moment, he’s only interested in development that fits the architectural concept of the place. The buildings — whether apartments, attached single-family homes, or commercial — will be three-to-four stories tall. Anything taller than that would obscure “the dome” (by which I assume he means the cupola atop the Babcock Building) , and anything less doesn’t fit the concept. “If you’re not three stories tall, we’re glad to talk to you, but we’re not going to be interested in the beginning.”
  • When is “the beginning?” The plan is to start “moving dirt” this summer, and work will start on the ballpark in the early fall. We’ll see the first residents in August 2015, and “hotel, retail and baseball” up and running in April 2016.
  • How long will it take to complete the development? Hughes said, “I want it not to take 20 years,” and reckons that “We’re a great success if it takes 14 or 15.”
  • Possibly the least sensitive remark of the morning was something that Hughes quoted to the effect that “Old brick is depressing; that’s why nobody ever left this place.” I didn’t hear who he was quoting and I missed the larger point he was trying to make about the look of the place. He did say that five buildings will be preserved, which he said represented about 75 percent of the square footage of the most comprehensive wish lists for historic preservation that he’d seen.
  • There was a lot of talk about walkability and bikeability. One person asked how the development would be accessible by bike from the established neighborhoods across Bull Street. Hughes gave perhaps his weakest answer of the morning to that, suggesting that cyclists could cross at the light. Then he said something about a tunnel that runs under Harden perhaps being employed for that purpose on the eastern side.
  • Hughes noted with regard to the $31 million in publicly-funded infrastructure, “It takes me 20 years to get that.” Benjamin added, “20 years, and benchmarks that have to be met along the way.
  • “This project’s going to be judged by its success,” Benjamin asserted. In response to a question about opposition, he said, “I talk with people every day who are very excited.” He spoke of touring Charleston with Joe Riley, “the dean of mayors in the United States,” who spoke of building things that have “a permanent impact on a city.” Benjamin added, “In 50 years, no one will remember what the unemployment rate was,” or the crime rate. Or, he hopes, how acrimonious was the debate over Bull Street. He believes its success will wash all that away.

baseball been berry berry good to me

Doug forms impression of Haley strength, Sheheen weakness

summit

Our own Doug Ross attended IT-ology’s Summit on Information Technology today, and this is his report:

Nikki Haley did the quick welcome speech to the crowd this morning.  Never had seen her before in person…   I was impressed with her energy and her ability to speak without notes.  She laid out what will probably be a theme for the next few months:  a growing economy built on encouragingcompanies to come to South Carolina.    What was more indicative of what’s in store for Vincent Sheheen was when Ed Sellers (Chairman BCBS – you probably knew that) got up after Nikki left and said that Haley and her team (Bobby Hitt and others) were the best administration  he had worked with in 25 years in terms of economic development.   Otis Rawl followed Sellers with more praise for Nikki.    If I were Vincent Sheheen, I’d drop out now… I don’t think he’s going to come as close as last time.
The mayor also spoke briefly and did a good job of selling Columbia as a place to grow technology business.   He was late so he wasn’t in the room when Haley was there.    My cynical self wonders if that was on purpose.

As I’ve said many times, Nikki makes a great first impression, and connects really well with a group of people.

I agree that Vincent’s in trouble, and not only because he’s not as good at connecting with a crowd. Four years ago, the state chamber (Otis Rawl’s organization) backed him, which was extraordinary for a Democrat. I had already seen indications that wasn’t going to happen again. This is another indication of that.

And when a guy like Ed Sellers goes that far in his praise, it’s important. But I suspect he really mostly appreciates Bobby Hitt.

Something is going to have to change for Vincent Sheheen to be as competitive as he was last time around, much less win. The incumbent has positioned herself well for another four years, even without the Year-Of-The-Tea-Party advantage she enjoyed in 2010.

Edisto rated 6th most endangered nationally

This just in from the Conservation Voters of South Carolina:

Friends,

This morning, the Edisto River was named as the 6th Most Endangered River in the United States. As the longest free-flowing blackwater river in the country, the Edisto is both a state and national treasure. As I told The Aiken Standard, the Edisto wouldn’t be on the list if it “wasn’t such an iconic, beautiful river.”

But, as you may know, the Edisto’s future is in jeopardy as a result of excessive agricultural withdrawals that can take up to 35% of the river’s flow during summer months. Republican leaders like Senator Chip Campsen have made preserving the Edisto a priority by proposing amendments to our Surface Water Permitting Act.

But…..Governor Haley has spoken not a word about the Edisto. Perhaps now that the issue has national attention, she will finally let us know where she stands.

You can let the Governor know where you stand by clicking here. Thank you for supporting one of South Carolina’s most special places.

Sincerely,

Ann Timberlake

For some reason, the release didn’t mention specifically the big potato farm controversy. Maybe it just assumes we have that context. (Nor does it mention American Rivers, the group calling the Edisto one of the most endangered.) The release was in too much of a hurry to talk about the governor…

Anyway, The State explained the new designation in terms of the potato farm thing.