Last week, Covidien, a medical device manufacturing company based in Mansfield, MA, announced that it was closing its plant in Oconee County and opening one in Costa Rica. Nearly 600 South Carolinians will lose their jobs to workers from another country who will be paid less than three dollars an hour.
According to Covidien’s most recent public filing, the company is growing and is profitable, so the decision to close the Oconee plant was not made by a company in financial crisis.
The Covidien closing is a the most recent and most local example of a discussion that has been taking place across the country about how to jump-start a sluggish economy. What should be done to attract and keep low-to-medium skill manufacturing jobs that pay well, like the ones at Covidien? And what should be done, if anything, to companies who ship such jobs overseas?
Gov. Nikki Haley addressed these questions during a conversation with Patch Wednesday at the Statehouse after a ceremony with the Daughters of the American Revolution in recognition of Constitution Week.
“Those 600 job losses hurt,” Haley said of the Covidien closing. “But we are continuing to bring jobs in and I’m going to continue talking about lower taxes and lower regulations and that we don’t want unions here.”
Haley noted that this week alone there have been announcements resulting in 185 new jobs and that 27,000 jobs have been added to the Palmetto State's economy since she was sworn in.
But when jobs do leave, Haley said she is not in favor of punishing the company that does so. “You have to let the market work,” she said. “(In the case of Covidien) we reached out to them to see if there was anything we could do.”
Haley’s strategy in attracting business is two-pronged—create a good climate for businesses by making it easier to be profitable and by having a qualified workforce.
“That goes back to creating a business climate with low taxes and low regulations. That’s the reason I go to the legislature and say the reason business taxes matter is because they do matter,” Haley said. “The companies that go overseas are paying less taxes than they would here.”
In the presidential campaign between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, strengthening the middle class has been a primary topic. Similarly, Haley said she devotes her attention to attracting jobs that might not necessarily be high-skilled, but can draw a salary that puts the worker in the middle class.
“We are focused on training the part of the workforce that doesn’t need a four-year degree,” Haley said. “The jobs that are coming in are the technical jobs that don’t require a lot of training but are high-paying. That’s what we’re focused on.”
Later on Wednesday, Haley appeared in Fayetteville, NC to campaign with GOP gubernatorial candidate Pat McRory. Haley said she does plan on backing South Carolina House and Senate candidates, but she has not decided which ones as of yet. In the primary season, she supported Tom Rice for the new congressional seat in District 7 and Lee Bright in State Senate seat 12, both of whom won.