The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce 2023 Grassroots tour rolled into Good Morning, North Augusta, the October 12 breakfast sponsored by the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce. The members of the North Augusta business community had the chance to voice their opinions on the Palmetto State’s business needs.
Bob Morgan, President and CEO of the state chamber said the purpose of the tour is to have local business leaders discuss issues that become part of the legislative process.
“To give you the opportunity to be a voice of businesspeople from across the state weighing in on different issues, issues that we will share with legislators, legislative leadership, policymakers, and state government who are keenly interested in what businesspeople think, as we look ahead to the next 2024 legislative session that will kick off in January,” he explained.
“It helps them build a greater, larger strategy statewide because we have a good legislative delegation. But there’s just so many of them, and there’s a lot more from elsewhere. So, if there’s a unified voice that helps us in this part of the state,” said Will Williams, President and CEO of the Western SC Economic Development Partnership.
Morgan led attendees through a series of interactive questions and information slides ranging from quality of life to economic competitiveness and workforce development.
Questioned about the current state of the U.S. economy, most of those attending indicated they felt the current economy is poor. However, when asked specifically about South Carolina’s economy, the responses were positive.
“People doing business in South Carolina generally feel very positive about doing business in South Carolina. We hear that across the state,” said Morgan.
Attendees were generally consistent in what hinders business growth, specifically a need for tort reform and modernization of the tax codes. However, one area presented a conflict.
When asked, “What is the biggest drag on your business’s earnings? Potential tax burdens, insurance costs, regulatory compliance costs, worker wages, fixed costs like rent, energy, equipment, materials,” the majority cited worker wages as the biggest issue.
However, when asked what would have the largest impact on workforce participation, improving wages and benefits topped the responses, followed closely by employer-provided childcare services.
Williams appreciated the dichotomy.
“I think that’s almost a chicken and an egg situation where obviously, you have to charge more for your product to be able to pay more, because we live in a capitalist world. People want to make a profit, that’s not a bad thing. And so, you either pay more, and your margins shrink. So, that is a long-term conversation,” he said.
The Grassroots Tour began in August and will conclude later this month in Greenville. In the 24 stops, the state organizations will have met with 43 local chambers of commerce.
“You’re now part of what we call the building of our Competitiveness Agenda, which begins with the grassroots tour. We have a chamber membership and a survey of our members with policy committees to weigh in. And then in November, our board will approve the final Competitiveness Agenda that will be presented to the legislature, when they return to Columbia in January,” Morgan explained.
The North Augusta Chamber will be represented with a booth at ABD’s Business EXPO coming up this Thursday.