2011-02-25 / Business


by John Temple Ligon

Burdensome but unknown, mostly

The number of cell phone subscribers in the country has grown from 55 million in 1997 to 292 million in 2010. There are now just 50 million landline telephones. The average wireless consumer pays taxes and fees of 16.26 percent, and state–local charges average 11.21 percent, more than two–thirds of the total take. The average state–local tax rate in South Carolina is 9.52 percent, and the combined average federal–state– local total tax is 14.57 percent. At 14.57 percent, South Carolina is ranked the 24th most expensive in the country. The most expensive is Nebraska at 23.69 percent, and the least expensive is Oregon at 6.86 percent. Over all, the country’s cell phone users are overtaxed relative to consumers of other goods. Stealth tax increases by state, and local governments are not unusual with wireless services.

Mitsubishi heads for Memphis with

Greenville firms’ help Greenville–based O’Neal Inc., an integrated design and construction firm, is working with Mitsubishi Electric Power Products to build a new $200 million power transformer and power components manufacturing plant at the Rivergate Industrial Port in Memphis. Planning and design have already begun at O’Neal, which was founded in 1975 and, besides its Greenville headquarters, has offices in Atlanta and Raleigh. Also helping Mitsubishi’s Memphis move is Greenville– based McCallum Sweeney Consulting, a site selection, incentive negotiation and economic development consulting firm.

Unemployment insurance

South Carolina’s repayment on a federal loan used to fund unemployment insurance benefits could get reduced and extended, as suggested recently at a Senate hearing. The state borrowed more than $900 million from the federal government to cover the cost of unemployment. South Carolina’s private employers were hit with a new set of rates for unemployment insurance about a year ago, and now employers are complaining about the steep rate hikes. Meanwhile, North Carolina owes the federal government more than $2.5 billion for borrowed unemployment benefits, and the state is yet to put a repayment plan together.

Noisy white duck at 400 Laurel Street

On Tuesday, February 15, Aflac Group Insurance moved into new offices on the fifth floor at 400 Laurel Street, where the company has also leased another 13,000 square feet on the third floor. In 2010, Aflac hired 50 permanent employees to work at 400 Laurel, and the company hired 60 temporary workers. For 2011, Aflac expects to hire another 100 new workers in permanent positions at 400 Laurel.

Surprise, surprise

According toUSA Today, the IRS issued $39.1 million in undeserved tax refunds to prison and jail inmates in 2009. Georgia, Florida, and California filed the most fraudulent claims that actually received money, a total of $19 million in 2009 for the three states.

What do they know?

Los Angeles–based Capital World Investors, the largest shareholder in Duke Energy, recently reduced its interest in the Charlotte–based utility by 121 million shares, or about $215 million. Capital World also sold almost 5.6 million shares of Progress Energy, the Raleighbased utility that agreed in January to be sold to Duke Energy in a $13.7 billion stock deal expected to close within the year. Capital still owns 76.7 million shares of Duke worth $1.37 billion, and the privately owned investment manager still owns 2.3 million shares of Progress worth $104 million. With its takeover of Progress, Duke became the country’s largest utility power producer with total generating capacity of almost 57,000 megawatts. Across the country a 4% overall decline in power demand occurred in 2009, the first national decline in power demand since WWII.

Export from Spartanburg

The value of BMW exports from its Spartanburg–area assembly plant exceeded $4.4 billion in 2010, making BMW the nation’s largest vehicle exporter from the United States to non–NAFTA countries. More than 110,000 vehicles were exported by the Upstate’s BMW plant in 2010. The plant’s output is about 1,000 vehicles a day, and for 2011 there should be an increase to about 240,000 vehicles. Since opening in 1994, the BMW Spartanburg plant has produced about 1.7 million vehicles.

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