York County is red hot!
Bobby Harrell, speaker of the S.C. House, said it.
Hugh Leatherman, chairman of the state Senate Finance Committee, said it.
It was sweet music to the more than 150 people from York County who traveled to Columbia on Tuesday for York County Day.
The simple words from two of the most powerful people in the Legislature meant the investment put into York County Day for more than two decades is yielding dividends.
York County Day was started 23 years ago as a way of getting York County noticed. The perception was York County, as far as the powers in Columbia were concerned, was lost in the clutter of Charlotte. The successes of the Queen City would take care of its bedroom community neighbors.
Harrell and Leatherman were pinch-hitters on Tuesday. The original agenda called for a red-hot day featuring Gov. Nikki Haley, state Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt and state demographer Bobby Bowers.
Bowers did not cancel.
With his scratchy Southern voice that often requires a interpreter from the South to understand him, he made the Census more than numbers. The bottom line is financial as well as political, he said.
The numbers are used to draw legislative districts. They are also used to apportion federal funds. The cost of undercounting is officially $1,200 per person. Bowers said the number is likely higher, at least $1,800. That's federal money lost if the census misses people in your district.
Without Haley and Hitt, York County Day was a chance to question the local delegation. Attending were senators Creighton Coleman, Wes Hayes and Harvey Peeler and representatives Deborah Long, Dennis Moss, Ralph Norman, Tommy Pope and Gary Simrill.
For those who came looking for certainty, they likely left unfulfilled.
South Carolina has a deficit. Everyone has his wants - and no one wants to yield. Make changes to somebody else's budget, they say. Gore their ox.
The delegation repeated the promise not to raise taxes. They said they wanted to protect core services such as Medicaid and K-12 education. But cuts are possible in those areas.
Their words are counter to the legislative agenda the Council of Chambers of York County delivered Tuesday. The council supports "funding necessary" to meet the needs of local school districts and higher education.
The council also supports changes to the state's tax system in general and Act 388 - which shifted much of the tax burden for schools to businesses - specifically.
Discussion of tax reform is likely a year away, they heard. Creating a new congressional district and redrawing legislative districts will likely consume most of the session - any beyond. Someone will likely sue over the congressional redistricting.
Those wanting Act 388 repealed were told that won't happen. At best, there might be some tweaks, but no specifics were discussed.
To cut the deficit, some state agencies are increasing fees and other charges - charges that fall on the backs of business. Of compelling concern is the new unemployment insurance tax rate schedule, which some fear unfairly penalizes new businesses.
Tort reform was touted as the missing link in the economic development puzzle. Leatherman said business prospects he talked to in Japan two years ago feared out-of-control litigation.
The tort reform bill that passed the House, and is awaiting Senate action, would cap punitive awards at three times the plaintiff's costs or $350,000, whichever is greater.
Supporters acknowledge the bill is designed to deal with perceptions. Tort reform likely won't be a dealmaker when it comes to attracting new business.
Cutting or reducing taxes, increasing job credits and other incentives - those are the dealmakers and they are real numbers and not perceptions.
York County is about 70 miles from Columbia, said Simrill, but it is millions of miles distant when it comes to economic development conversations. Ample communication between the state Department of Commerce and local economic developers is key, he said.
Mark Farris, York County's economic developer, invites people to look at his phone logs. The calls have been made. The question has been, is the other party listening?
And that was the encouraging word given Tuesday. This administration, led by Haley and Witt, will listen, will knock on doors, will do the things needed to restore South Carolina's reputation as a business-friendly state, said the delegation, Harrell and Leatherman.
It is a contrast to Gov. Mark Sanford's administration, which Leatherman characterized as the "lost eight years of South Carolina." So much potential was not realized, he said.
And as bleak as the prospects sometime appear to be, Peeler reminded people York County is one of the growth counties.
"We're growing," he said. "We must be doing something right. Let's build on that."
Even the Legislature is not immune from Jadeveon Clowney worship.
House Speaker Bobby Harrell, a University of South Carolina graduate, began his comments at York County Day with "At the top of the list is Jadeveon Clowney. God bless you."
He said the Legislature is "more excited to meet Clowney than we were when President Bush came here."
Clowney, a defensive lineman at South Pointe High School in Rock Hill, is considered by many the top high school recruit in the nation. He announced Monday his decision to play for the Gamecocks.