Columbia, S.C. Mayor Steve Benjamin traveled to San Jose, California last month to meet with a company that is reportedly considering the city as a possible location for a “major manufacturing facility,” multiple sources tell FITS.
Joining Benjamin on the trip was the city’s top economic development official, Jim Gambrell.
Originally, FITS was informed that Benjamin was meeting with the company solely to negotiate the purchase of solar panels for the City of Columbia (which is reportedly part of the deal). However, multiple sources have since confirmed that the real reason for the trip was to pitch South Carolina’s capital city – famously dubbed the “Face of the Recession” – as a location for a new solar panel manufacturing facility.
In fact, Benjamin’s travel expense documents specifically refer to a “recruiting trip” to meet with a San Jose-based company that is “looking at Columbia.”
Earlier this year, legislation was introduced in the S.C. General Assembly by Rep. James Smith that would have provided tax credits to South Carolina residents who chose to install solar panels on their homes. Smith’s legislation would have also provided tax credits to individuals who donated money to charitable organizations that provided solar panels.
Smith’s legislation (click here to read it) did not pass, however.
Sources tell FITS that Smith – one of Benjamin’s staunchest supporters – is intimately involved in the deal and may even represent the company involved, although we’ve been unable to confirm that.