hen company executives decide the time has come to build a new facility, the decision is never taken lightly. Many factors must be considered: Is there an available workforce and can they be trained? Does the infrastructure meet the company's needs? Are state and local leaders friendly to business?
For the North Eastern Strategic Alliance (NESA) — a regional economic development organization representing nine counties in South Carolina's northeast corner — they answer these questions with a simple catch phrase "the NESA region has it all," and for many employers they do. The perfect example is Florence, South Carolina's White Hawk Commerce Park.
White Hawk is a shovel-ready, 1,175 acre industrial park crafted under the CSX Corporation's Select Site Initiative. The initiative focuses on access to rail services, proximity to highways, workforce availability, and access to natural gas, electricity, water, and the like.
The park is situated in the heart of the NESA region, which itself is centrally positioned on the eastern seaboard. The site boasts direct access to I-95 and I-20, as well as two side-tracks, and unit train capabilities. White Hawk is located an hour away from the Port of Charleston and just a half-mile from the Florence Regional Airport. In sum, shipments coming out of White Hawk can reach the far-east or the mid-west without a problem.
Beyond location and transportation, White Hawk's on-the-ground infrastructure doesn't disappoint either. The site is fully equipped with access to Progress Energy transmission and feeder lines, City of Florence water, SCANA 6" and 4" natural gas lines, as well as telecommunication and high-speed fiber optics.
Now while White Hawk is at the top of any list of shovel-ready industrial parks, we cannot pretend like it is a wonder unto itself. All the infrastructure, highways, and rail lines will not make a company successful, if there isn't community support and direct access to strong human resources. But for the folks in the NESA region, this is not a new aberration — frankly they've known what businesses are looking for on these fronts over a generation.
When the Presidential candidates recently passed through South Carolina, they were nearly singularly focused on jobs, and the economy. And certainly every economic development officer welcomes any elected official's decision to focus on these topics, but for the hardworking citizens of South Carolina's NESA region, jobs and the economy have been the focus for decades.
As a result, South Carolina is home to one of the most business friendly environments in the United States. It is a right-to-work state that boasts low tax-rates, and myriad incentives to new employers.
In some circumstances South Carolina provides tax credits of up to $9,000 per job created by qualifying companies. These credits can offset up to 50 percent of a company's state income tax. And if a business does not use the full credit in the first year, there is a rollover program in which unused credits can be carried forward for a full 15 years. The State even provides sales tax exemptions on electricity and fuel used in manufacturing processes, machinery and equipment used in production.
Yet in spite of this emphasis on low taxes, the State maintains a competitive level of investment in education and workforce development. For example, two leading technical colleges are located just down the road from White Hawk, and through the State's Ready SC program, qualifying new employers can train their workforce at no cost.
South Carolina and the NESA region are absolutely committed to developing the local economy — and employers around the country are taking notice. Not far from the White Hawk site, one finds facilities associated with leading companies including General Electric, Heinz, Dupont, ESAB, Federal Express and more.
In 2008, Florence, South Carolina was ranked fifth in the nation by The Miliken Institute for Business Expansion. Looking at the White Hawk Commerce Park, it's easy to conclude that four years later, the region's only gotten better.