Leonardo"s Notebook by Mattheus Mei

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Friday, October 24, 2008

If I didn't know any better....

If I didn't know any better I'd think that Mr. Fitts has been reading the Notebook. (I have more links from that link)

I have obtained a copy of CRBR's lambast against the, IMHO, immensely incompetent Poobah of Commerce Department. Though Fitts ends the article on a high note for Taylor, probably to avoid all the wrath that money can buy, at least he puts (most of) it out there.

You know this election season we've heard a lot about Judgement. The failure of the commerce department over the last few years speaks a lot about the judgement of this administration. Though this failure is easily and rightfully placed at the foot of Taylor it actually belongs with his boss who made the decision to put him in charge of such an important state agency. On this ship after all, Taylor is just First Mate - Sanford is the Captain.

Critics call commerce an agency adrift
By Mike Fitts mfitts@scbiznews.com
Gov. Mark Sanford’s Commerce Department has been a juicy subject for Columbia’s cocktail-hour debates throughout his administration. But a broadside from a political opponent earlier this year put the question front and center: Is commerce getting the job done? Critics contend that commerce has withered under Sanford and has seen many sharp recruiters head out the door, some put off by Secretary Joe Taylor’s brusque management style. Sanford himself has been too often missing from the deal-making, these critics contend. Taylor and others in commerce point to positive results and arriving high-tech investments as proof that commerce is doing its job. The broadside The event was the launch of a new "knowledge economy," jobs effort, and the dais featured several leaders from the realms of technology and education, plus S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, and Senate Finance Chairman Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, who both have clashed publicly with the governor. But no one from the governor’s office or Commerce Department was there to be seen. Leatherman took to the podium and opened fire on commerce and the governor. "It has become painfully clear that this administration simply doesn’t care about creating jobs for our people," he said, adding that the hard work of developing relationships was key to economic development, and it had been "sorely lacking" in the executive branch. Leatherman pointed to the state’s jobless rate, third-highest in the country, as proof of the failures of the Sanford administration, and claimed that some new investments, including the Heinz plant in Florence County, came in spite of commerce, not because of them.
The speech helped to cast the new knowledge sector effort as an end run around the executive branch, a description rejected by those implementing it.
Taylor said he has had a good working relationship with Leatherman, and sees that day’s rant as part of the political tension between the Legislature and governor. "I think that’s all it was." Former Gov. Jim Hodges worries about the public spat.
"I am disturbed that there’s a split with the Legislature and governor on economic development policy," he said. There can’t be "too many chefs" in economic development, Hodges said, and the accountability should be in the executive branch. The debate Agency critics contend that commerce is less aggressive and less effective than it has been in years past. Some see regional groups taking up commerce’s slack in finding new leads to pursue. Unlike Leatherman, they say this on condition that their names not be used. Some formerly worked at the department. Some dissidents blame Sanford, saying he is too absent on the front end of deal-making, especially with the relationship-building that long has been part of luring new industry. They also said financial incentives have been too scarce under his administration. Hal Johnson, president of the Upstate Alliance regional economic development agency, said critics may be overlooking the impact of budget cuts on commerce. He said he would like to see Sanford "more on the front end telling companies we want them." Criticism is sharper of Taylor. One person with inside experience with the agency said Taylor "thought it was broken" when he took over the agency, and would not listen to experienced members of his team. Incentives to land new companies have become "a lot harder to get," the former insider said. With North Carolina and Georgia next door still piling on incentives, South Carolina is at a distinct disadvantage, he said. A local leader with business and government experience who asked not to be identified said he had heard from those in other states that South Carolina’s reputation as a highly competitive job-hunter is in decline. "They have lost their best salespeople over the last several years to the business world," the leader said. However, Taylor said the numbers prove that commerce has been effective. A release from commerce touts more than $4 billion and 15,666 jobs lured to the state in 2007 – both numbers an increase from 2006. Both the press release and the secretary emphasize that good economic development results from teamwork across the state’s economic groups. "It’s not all us," Taylor said. In 2008, commerce is well ahead of its aggressive internal goals, which are not public. As of Oct. 8, commerce was 41% above its goal for capital investment, 24% above its internal goal for jobs and 8% ahead on number of deals made, he said. Taylor points to announcements such as Monster.com’s move to Florence and the new biomass project in Newberry, and said he looks ahead to "an exciting fall," despite the national credit crisis.
Commerce is gets bad-mouthed, Taylor said, in part because it does not toot its own horn. "Taking credit for deals is not our bag." On incentives, Taylor points out the recent steady stream of budget cuts, saying funds were cut 26% last year. Final approval of incentives is the responsibility of the Coordinating Council for Economic Development, a board of which Taylor is chairman that also includes numerous other agency heads. Rules now require that for a company to qualify for incentives, it must pay more than the state’s per capita wage and offer health care benefits at least as good as state government, including to spouses. Taylor says that these standards help push South Carolina toward the goal of increasing state incomes – but, he notes, he would likely urge that such rules be waived when there’s a chance to bring jobs to some of the state’s most impoverished counties. The agency Former employees say that turnover has been enormous during Taylor’s time at commerce, with maybe 50% of holdovers having left – a number that Director of Marketing and Communications Kara Borie calls "exaggerated, at best." One observer with inside knowledge of commerce said that the agency has an "oppressive, nonproductive atmosphere" where employees fear too strongly for their futures, especially longtime workers, who worry about being ousted in favor of a more pro-Taylor replacement. Taylor’s rules, the observer said, have changed the atmosphere from professional to bureaucratic, including requiring that everyone be at their desks by 8:30 a.m., no matter if they attended a business event the night before. "Sometimes when you ask folks to go to work, they choose to go to work somewhere else," Taylor said of the agency’s transition. "We’ve gone to work here." Taylor is immensely proud of the team he’s assembled at commerce, which includes a retired Army general and an ex-Navy captain. He points to a photo of his sales team, with 20- and 30-year veterans amid several newcomers. "I will take this staff at the Department of Commerce and go run a private business anywhere in the world with it. How many people are gonna say that about a government agency?" he said. Taylor does not dispute that he’s a demanding boss. "You always know where you stand with me," he said. "I think we have a mission, and failure’s not an option." Borie said the governor picked Taylor precisely because he "would demand results."
"The one thing I know for a fact is if you want to be successful in life, you’ve got to outwork everybody," Taylor said.
David King, director of marketing-new industry for the Central South Carolina Alliance, said Taylor is demanding a lot out of himself. King’s office is in the Capitol Center, also home to the Commerce Department, and he’s used to seeing Taylor’s car in the garage. "He’s here when I get here, and he’s here when I go home," King said.

Reach Mike Fitts at 803-401-1094 ext. 204.

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