2007-12-07 / Business

Dr. Teegen hosts the 27th annual Economic Outlook Conference

Story and photos by John Temple Ligon Temple@TheColumbiaStar.com

Executive Director of New Carolina George Fletcher Executive Director of New Carolina George Fletcher Dr. Hildy Teegen, dean of USC's Moore School of Business, greeted her audience of hundreds at the Marriott Monday morning, December 3. She thanked Joel Smith, former dean, for bringing the conference to what it became in its 27th edition.

Teegen introduced George Fletcher, executive director of New Carolina, a spin- off from the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness.

Fletcher reminded the room of Michael Porter's visit four years earlier. Porter, Harvard professor and author of The Competitive

Advantage of Nations,

collected several statewide economic clusters to subsume South Carolina's future in economic development. Bostonian Porter also warned the aspiring crowd four years ago they were in a marathon, not a sprint.

The major statewide clusters today, in sequence from least- to most- developed status, are distribution services, apparel, automotive, recycling, agribusiness, nuclear, textiles, and tourism. Tourism, South Carolina's most developed economic cluster, is a statewide $17 billion industry.

Featured Speaker Dr. William Fox, tax consultant Featured Speaker Dr. William Fox, tax consultant Fletcher introduced Dr. Douglas Woodward, director of the Division of Research at USC's Moore School of Business. Woodward identified his favorite three fields of current interest: (1) tourism, (2) textiles, and (3) alternative energy.

In the area of alternative energy, Woodward was pleased to predict positive numbers in that field due to S.C.'s plentiful pine trees and fields of switchgrass, enzyme- rich plants suitable for alternative energy - more than corn, say.

Woodward moved on to the risky business of economic forecasting, where he said a soft landing could be expected in South Carolina in the coming year in contrast to our recent good fortunes.

On the national level Woodward admitted it was possible the country was already in a recession, but he doubted it. The definition of a recession usually includes two quarters of negative growth in the GDP, and that hasn't happened.

Following Woodward was Dr. Paulo Guimaraes, a clinical associate professor at the Moore School. He said personal income was holding, not going down, but he noted single- family housing permits were down significantly. Guimaraes is responsible for the South Carolina Economic Outlook, which provides quarterly and annual projections of the South Carolina economy.

(l- r) CEO of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce Ike McLeese, Director of Research at the Moore School Doug Woodward, and Dean of the Moore School Hildy Teegen. (l- r) CEO of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce Ike McLeese, Director of Research at the Moore School Doug Woodward, and Dean of the Moore School Hildy Teegen. Dr. Alvaro Cuervo- Cazurra, assistant professor of international business, analyzes how firms become competitive and how they then become international. In short, Cuervo- Cazurra expected more international trade for South Carolina, a more globalized business climate.

At the end of lunch, former dean Joel Smith introduced the featured speaker of the conference, Dr. William Fox, a professor of business and a professor of economics at the University of Tennessee- Knoxville. He's a tax consultant for the Palmetto Institute. Fox complained S.C.'s per capita income since the mid- 1990s fell from 83 percent of the national average to 81 percent today. At just under $30,000, S.C.'s per capita income is 47th in the country.

More foreign trade is the hope to counter the trend in per capita income falling relative to the rest of the country. As Fox put it, "Trade makes us all better off."

The world's economic growth for 2007 is half- carried by India, China, and Russia combined.

Betterment for S.C.'s citizens' economic status can accompany education gains. Fox said higher pay goes to the people with the best skills.

In the country, 39 percent have at least an associate's degree, while in S.C., 30 percent do.

Only 15 percent of S.C.'s ninth graders actually finish college on time.

The easiest target for improvement, Fox noted, could be taxes. He recommended the most broadbased tax system while still keeping taxes low. But he did not advocate growth based mostly on low taxes.

Taxes need to be adequate, not minimal, so South Carolinians can achieve an adequate level of education, not minimal.

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