Haley touts jobs, growth at tire conference on Hilton Head

gmartin@islandpacket.comApril 19, 2012 

In this file photo from April, Gov. Nikki Haley speaks at a conference at the Westin Resort on Hilton Head.

JAY KARR, THE ISLAND PACKET

Calling tire manufacturing "the one industry where demand is absolutely amazing," Gov. Nikki Haley delivered the keynote address Thursday at the annual Tire Industry Conference on Hilton Head Island.

Haley, who received a standing ovation from about 100 industry representatives at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort and Spa, said developments in the past year have propelled the Palmetto State to the forefront of the nation's tire production.

"What has happened in South Carolina is an amazing story," Haley told her audience. "We want to help you do more business in South Carolina and we want to make sure that you grow. That's our job."

Among the good news rolling in:

  • French tire manufacturer Michelin announced plans earlier this month to build a $750-million plant -- which it said would create 500 jobs -- in Anderson County.

  • Continental Tire broke ground in March on a $500-million plant in Sumter County that could generate 1,600 new jobs by 2021.

  • In September, Bridgestone announced it would invest $1.2 billion to expand its Aiken County operations and hire 850 additional workers.

  • Haley attributed such growth, in part, to her anti-union stance.

    "I am proud to say we are one of the lowest unionized states in the country," she said. "We will continue to be one of the lowest unionized states in the country because I am a union-buster; I don't like them and make it very clear that I don't like them."

    Haley also said strong infrastructure helped the tire industry succeed here.

    "We are making sure that our ports are ready," she said. "We are one of the states that needs the least amount of work in terms of dredging, and we'll be one of the deepest and largest (ports) in the country."

    Those factors, coupled with South Carolina's relatively low taxes, are among the reasons the tire industry statewide is robust, said Bruce Davis of Tire Business magazine.

    "Many say that South Carolina has a 'business-friendly environment' -- that means it's a right-to-work state, non-union," Davis said.

    Like Haley, he, too, credited infrastructure.

    "The state is good for getting heavy stuff out and raw materials in," he said.

    Tire Industry Association spokesman Mark Cook said the combination of a strong transportation system, workforce training and financial incentives is paying off for both the state and the industry.

    "That ... has all come together to create a perfect storm for South Carolina," he said.

    Jeff Wilkinson of the (Columbia) State contributed.

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