Chamber: workforce, infrastructure needs are crucial for 2014

By Liz Segrist
lsegrist@scbiznews.com
Published Jan. 9, 2014

Workforce development and improved infrastructure are top of mind for local business people in 2014, according to the Charleston Chamber of Commerce’s legislative list of priorities.

This year’s list, released today, includes plans to strengthen the aerospace workforce, create a comprehensive research university in the region and secure funding to improve the state’s bridges and roads. See the full list below.

Every fall, the chamber’s business advocacy committee begins looking at key issues facing its members. They create a legislative agenda, and the executive committee and board must then approve it, said Mary Graham, the chamber’s senior vice president.

“Our main thrust is to arm our lobbyists with what we want to accomplish in the General Assembly this year,” Graham said. “Our membership continues to press getting our infrastructure up to speed in our community and making sure they have the workforce they need.”

The chamber also recently commissioned a study to see what higher education degrees are needed to meet workforce demands, Graham said. The “gap study” will examine the degrees being produced and the jobs that are available in the Charleston region.

Graham said the study stemmed from discussions between the College of Charleston and Medical University of South Carolina about ways to collaborate. Graham said the study will address K-12 education, as well as two-year, four-year and graduate degrees.

“With the growth that we’ve got coming, we know that just getting more kids successfully out of high school won’t answer our workforce needs,” Graham said. “Our economy is fundamentally changing. We have an opportunity to retrain adults in the workforce for different kinds of jobs.”

The chamber plans to release phase one of the study later this month. Phase one will highlight the community’s needs for education. The study’s second phase, likely to be released in April, will recommend strategies on how to address the region’s workforce training gaps.

The chamber hired Avalanche Consulting to conduct the study. The chamber, the Charleston Area Alliance, CofC, MUSC, Trident Technical College and Charleston Southern University are funding the study.

The Chamber’s 2014 legislative list:

State legislative agenda

Economic development and innovation:

  • Support creation of Aeronautical Enterprise Campus at Trident Technical College to expand the aerospace industry cluster in South Carolina.

Military base retention and expansion:

  • Lobby for exemption of property tax collection on privatized housing located on federal military facilities.

Talent:

  • Support legislation to create comprehensive research university in the Charleston area between the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina in order to provide advanced degrees.

Transportation and infrastructure:

  • Support additional funding to S.C. Department of Transportation and the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank for infrastructure improvements in the region.
  • Amend legal parameters regarding local bond referenda for counties to maintain infrastructure sales tax programs that fund local road projects.

Budget priorities:

  • Medicaid expansion.
  • Local government fund.
  • Funding for S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s air quality program.
  • Adequate matching funds for regional economic development.
  • Funding for institutions of higher education in South Carolina and endowed chairs programs.
  • Reauthorize the Education and Economic Development Act, ReadySC and Manufacturing Skills Standards program.
  • Support continued lottery tuition assistance for Trident Technical College.

Federal legislative agenda

Economic development:

  • Reauthorize Trade Promotion Authority for five years and encourage passage of trade agreements to help expand export trade.
  • Support reauthorization of the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

Military base retention and expansion:

  • Lobby the Department of Defense to re-evaluate its decision on the location of Africa Command to Joint Base Charleston Regulatory.
  • Advocate against an overly burdensome regulatory environment for business from such agencies and organizations as the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Labor Relations Board.

Talent:

  • Lobby Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.

Transportation and infrastructure:

  • Support continued funding for Post 45 Charleston harbor deepening project.

Local government agenda

Transportation and infrastructure:

  • Advance the Chamber’s 18 infrastructure priorities for our region, specifically the completion of Interstate 526 and Glenn McConnell Extension.
  • Support expansion projects for the Port of Charleston including the completion of the cruise terminal.
  • Complete a regional transit plan.

Regulatory:

  • Reform local government processes to expedite approvals for business.

Talent:

  • Eliminate constituent boards in Charleston County School District.
  • Support the Tri-County Cradle to Career initiative.

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.

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