Typically, state and local officials hand out big taxpayer-backed goody bags to major companies locating or expanding in South Carolina.
The total incentives package for aerospace giant Boeing Co.’s North Charleston plant, for example, will cost taxpayers at least a half-billion dollars over 20 years, including $270 million in state bonds that taxpayers are on the hook for repaying, The Nerve reported in 2010.
In recent years, taxpayer-supported incentives for major projects in the Palmetto State have included everything from donated land by government agencies; grants to build roads, water and sewer lines on company sites; free job training for new workers through the state Technical College System; and myriad income and property tax breaks.
Given that, Gov. Nikki Haley’s announcement on Friday was clearly out of the norm.
During a press conference in the State House lobby, Haley said – in response to a question from a Nervereporter – that she was “not aware of any incentives” offered to Time Warner Cable, which announced with Haley that the company would add 644 jobs with a $24 million renovation project at its state headquarters in Lexington County.
“There’s nothing like a company that does this out of the goodness of their heart,” Haley said, laughing.
Ironically, though, Haley, who represented Lexington County as a state House member before becoming governor, said in 2011 during her first year as governor that she wouldn’t stop a controversial incentives deal for online retail giant Amazon to build a distribution center in Lexington County. The deal included a special law exempting the Seattle-based company from collecting sales taxes on purchases made by S.C. residents until Jan. 1, 2016.
A state cost-benefit analysis pegged the taxpayer cost of the Amazon project at nearly $61 million over 10 years, which included, among other things, more than $41 million in various tax credits and rebates, state-provided job training costing an estimated $6 million, and a $2.5 million state grant, The Nerve reported then. The cost-benefit analysis didn’t take into account the expected loss of sales tax revenue from the sales tax exemption.
So why weren’t any incentives reportedly offered to Time Warner Cable?
“They don’t need any assistance because they are already mastering what they have,” Haley said during Friday’s press conference. “I think it says a lot about a company because a lot of times we may help with infrastructure … but Lexington County’s got the infrastructure. They’ve got the work force.”
“What you have is good, successful company that is already doing what they are doing well,” the governor pointed out.
Time Warner Cable, which has its national headquarters in New York and, accordig to company officials, is the nation’s second-largest cable provider, posted net income of $808 million in the third quarter of last year, company records show.
Contacted after the press conference, S.C. Department of Commerce spokeswoman Amy Love told The Nerve that Haley “worked with the company,” but that no incentives were offered.
By law, Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt chairs the 11-member state Coordinating Council for Economic Development, made up of the heads of state agencies involved with economic development. The Nerve has previously reported that the council doles out millions annually in incentives to often-unidentified companies during meetings that are largely closed to the public.
Former Commerce spokeswoman Rose Dangerfield, who now is director of communications for Time Warner Cable’s South Carolina operations, told The Nerve on Friday that her company didn’t ask for any state or local incentives for its latest project at its Platt Springs Road site.
“We didn’t need them,” she said. “As a company, we are very proud of that.”
Asked if the company would seek incentives in the future for project, Dangerfield replied: “I’m not aware of anything at all. If you’re going to ask for it, you need to do it before you fill your jobs.”
“Our focus is filling those jobs,” she added.
Dangerfield said the project will involve renovating roughly 80,000 square feet of its 310,000-square foot building to accommodate the additional 644 workers. The space previously had been leased by the NCR Corp., she said.
Time Warner Cable in September 2005 announced that it would close its Columbia offices and move 700 workers to the Platt Springs Road building, which it had purchased, according to media reports. It was not immediately known Friday if any state or local incentives were offered for that move.
The cable company has approximately 1,200 employees statewide, about 40 percent, or 480, of whom are based out of the Platt Springs Road location, Dangerfield said.
The company will be adding “high-skilled customer care jobs,” retention and payment-services representatives with the improvement project, Carol Hevey, Time Warner Cable’s executive vice president of East Region operations, said during Friday’s press conference.
While some of the new jobs will involve transfers from other company locations, the “vast, vast majority – 90-plus percent” will be “filled locally,” Hevey said.
Starting pay for the new workers will “probably” be at $40,000, Hevey said. In comparison, the average annual salary with the incentives-backed Amazon project, which involved 2,000 jobs, was listed in a cost-benefit analysis at $33,370.
Many taxpayer-supported projects allow new jobs to be added over a period of years. Time Warner Cable officials say they plan to add all of the 644 jobs at the Platt Springs Road location by the end of this year.
Reach Brundrett at (803) 254-4411 or firstname.lastname@example.org.