SC Chamber focuses on roads and workers

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South Carolina legislators should focus on tackling the state’s infrastructure problem and developing the workforce, according to the recently released 2015 Competitiveness Agenda by the S.C. Chamber of Commerce.

“While there are many legislative items we will address in the coming session, this year we are heavily focused on working with our members to coalesce support around the policies of our state related to the funding and maintenance of our infrastructure and more importantly, to the long-term development of our state’s most important asset – our workforce and its future development,” said Mike Johnson, 2014-15 chair of the South Carolina Chamber, in a release.

South Carolina owns 63 percent of all roads in the state – more than three times the number owned by other states, where the average is only 19 percent, according to the S.C. Department of Transportation. Counties and municipal governments own the other 81 percent, SCDOT says.

With the local roads tax referendum failing in November, business owners acknowledge Greenville must look to the state to fix the problem.

Gov. Nikki Haley said repeatedly on the campaign trail that she would release her own plan to fix the state’s roads in January. At the Greenville Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Breakfast last week, State Reps. Chandra Dillard and Phyllis Henderson, members of the House Transportation, Infrastructure and Management Ad Hoc Committee, addressed the roads issue.

Dillard compared the issue to getting “the ox out of the ditch,” and said the state needs to give more control of the roads to local governments. Henderson said about 15 counties don’t have a roads department and their roads are completely controlled by the state.

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The Chamber’s Competitiveness Agenda calls for “a comprehensive, sustainable and recurring funding plan for infrastructure.”

The Chamber also called on the Legislature to address the shortage of workers needed for mid-skill jobs that require either an associate degree or certification but not a four-year degree.

The increase in job openings due to growth of manufacturing in the state, along with “many experienced workers on the verge of retirement,” has led to the shortage of employees for these jobs, the agenda says.

According to the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce, mid-skill jobs make up 54 percent of the workforce, but only 28 percent of workers have the necessary credentials for the jobs.

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