Magazine Gets S.C. Money, Gives State High Grade

September 3, 2010

Investigative Reports

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The NerveSouth Carolina elected officials were all smiles a few weeks back after a publication called Business Facilities ranked the state No. 1 in the nation for “Economic Growth Potential,” No. 4 for “Best Business Climate,” and No. 3 for “Automotive Manufacturing Strength.”

What was undisclosed was that the state has paid Business Facilities’ parent company, Group C Media, tens of thousands of dollars, over the past year or so to advertise in the publication.

According to information found on the S.C. Comptroller General’s website, the S.C. Department of Commerce spent $10,500 with Group C media earlier this year, paying the New Jersey-based media company $4,000 in January and $6,500 in February.

Commerce has also spent advertising money with Pollina Corporate Real Estate., which earlier this month ranked South Carolina among the Top 5 Business-Friendly States in the nation.

The payout to Pollina appears to be much smaller, $585 in FY 2009-10, according to the Comptroller’s website.

Group C traces its history back to 1968, when it began as American Industrial Properties Report. According to company information, it changed its name to Group C Media Inc. in 2008 “to mirror a forward-thinking organization,” and describes itself as “an integrated business to business media company that covers the full lifecycle of a facility.”

Chicago-based Pollina Corporate Real Estate is a brokerage and consulting firm, representing corporations in real estate matters. Pollina’s annual study evaluates and ranks states based on factors controlled by state government, including taxes, education and economic development efforts.

The exact amount of tax dollars spent with either company is unclear at present. Commerce officials were tight lipped when asked how much money the state agency has spent with Group C and Pollina since the beginning of fiscal year 2009-10.

Department spokeswoman Kara Borie replied by email to a request seeking information regarding money paid by Commerce to Group C Media and Pollina by stating that The Nerve was welcome to send a Freedom of Information Act request.

She then added: “Just out of curiosity, are you all opposed of the state getting positive news about its accomplishments?”

When Borie was asked if her response indicated that she would not reveal how her agency uses taxpayer funds without a FOIA request, she replied that Commerce has always disclosed and will continue to disclose what is required under the law.

“I have made it very clear to you and your colleagues that we will respond to your freedom of information requests,” she said.

Commerce, which has ads in both the print edition of Business Facilities and on its website, isn’t the only state entity spending money with Group C Media.

Santee Cooper, the state-owned utility, also advertises with Business Facilities, as does the South Carolina Power Team, an economic development alliance comprised of Santee Cooper and the state’s 20 electric cooperatives.

Santee Cooper had spent $33,400 with Business Facilities through the first seven months of 2010, according to spokeswoman Laura Varn, and more than $60,000 since the beginning of 2009.

The S.C. Power Team has spent “maybe $5,000 or so” in 2010, marketing manager Fred Gassaway said.

Varn said she is unaware of any quid pro quo arrangement in which Business Facilities agrees to provide favorable editorial content in exchange for advertising dollars.

Gassaway said that advertising with Business Facilities has worked out pretty well for the S.C. Power Team.

“We’ve got quite a few leads over the past year or so,” he said. “It’s well known in the economic development community, both around the country and the world.”

Reach Dietrich at (803) 779-5022, ext. 110, or kevin@thenerve.org