NEWBERRY COUNTY — Annually, the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce goes on a Grassroots Tour around the state to discuss what issues that are facing businesses in South Carolina.
Mark Harmon, vice president of Public Policy for the SC Chamber, came to Newberry to do just that.
“Going around the state, talking to folks, to assess what is really going on in their neck of the woods is our Grassroots Tour,” Harmon said. “We start out internally to survey our own membership to find out what is really bothering them, hindering them on a regular basis, and see from a legislative standpoint what might be done to improve their business outlook.”
Last year, some of the issues the SC Chamber heard were infrastructure, workforce and business licenses.
“Among the many stops we made, infrastructure needs, funding for infrastructure repairs and maintenance was number one for our businesses,” Harmon said.
According to Harmon the Department of Transportation recommends a regular 15 to 20 year maintenance cycle on most of the state’s primary and secondary roads. But due to a lack of funding, South Carolina is somewhere in the 50 to 60 year maintenance cycle in some of the rural secondary roads.
“What chambers have told us is this is something we need to address,” Harmon said.
The SC Chamber also found a lack of workforce an issue and in some cases is finding employees who can pass a drug test and show up, but it is also a lack of finding people who are trained and certified.
“We have seen a growth in certification and two year technical degree jobs, but there is a lack of qualified employees,” Harmon said.
The SC Chamber has been working in their legislative agenda and working with the state Department of Education and technical schools to see how they can push and urge youths into those areas so the needs can be met.
“We have seen growth in manufacturing, advance manufacturing, IT, nursing and health related fields. These are jobs that would resolve a lot of issues, not just in the workforce, but improve our communities,” Harmon said.
The SC Chamber has also been told that there is a need for addressing business licences on a local level. Harmon said that when there is a business that does business across multiple counties and municipalities, they must get a business license for all of them.
Harmon said they have been working to make this more business friendly by making a uniform application with uniform due dates and are also trying to bring the applications and payment online.
During this year’s tour, they have heard issues such as workforce, education and the legal climate. A newer issue is pensions.
“Six months ago the state pension system was not really a big issue, but now it has come to light there is an unfunded liability upwards of $20 billion, …, but it is an issue that has to be dealt with in order for the state to keep its AAA credit rating,” Harmon said.
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @ TheNBOnews.