In a barely noticed Associated Press wire from earlier this week, South Carolina’s government-run power company announced its decision to loan a local economic development authority money to build a “shell building.”
According to the report, Santee Cooper is shelling out $1.5 million and agreeing to provide power, water and sewer services to the empty building in Laurens County – all in the “hopes” of luring “new business” to the site. It’s part of a program which has already doled out $5.6 million on other “business development” projects.
Why would Santee Cooper do something like that? Because according to the agency’s “CEO” Lonnie Carter (who makes $416,899 a year, not counting benefits), Santee Cooper has a “responsibility to promote business opportunities in the state.”
Wait … what?
There is so much wrong with this story we don’t even know where to start …
First of all, as we have pointed out ad nauseam for several years (most recently: here), government shouldn’t be competing with the private sector in the energy industry. Santee Cooper should immediately be privatized and all of its assets sold to the highest bidder.
Beyond that, since when was it the job of a utility company to “promote business opportunities in the state?” Assuming you believe “economic development” is a core function of government – and we don’t – aren’t we already shelling out tens of millions of dollars each year on a Commerce Department? And isn’t that Commerce Department shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars a year on dubiously successful taxpayer-funded incentives?
Also, who makes the final decision on each of these multi-million dollar loans? What criteria are used in determining who receives them (and who doesn’t)? What is the interest rate? What is the maturity date? And why in the hell would a loan go toward an empty building with only the “hope” of one day landing a corporate tenant?
Can you imagine any lending institution awarding a loan of this size on a whim? Of course not … which is probably why these local bureaucrats in Laurens County had to go begging Santee Cooper for the money.
Not surprisingly, though, the Associated Press asked precisely NONE of these questions in its reporting.
What we have here is a state agency which shouldn’t even exist in the first place duplicating “economic development” work which shouldn’t even be done in the first place – something which happens way too often in the Palmetto State.