It’s always a red flag when a deal is rushed through our state legislature so fast it would make your head spin. The S.C. General Assembly was made aware of an “important economic development announcement” on March 3 and an incentives bill connected to that announcement is already scheduled for a third reading in the House on March 13, an almost unheard-of timeline in state government. There are complaints from some state representatives that this process has been deliberately streamlined allowing precious little time for discussion and debate.
Proponents argue the $1.3 billion in state incentives to Volkswagen/Scout for electric vehicle manufacturing could create up to 4,000 jobs and will put the Palmetto State “on the map” for EV production. The company HOPES to begin making new vehicles by the end of 2026, and at full capacity MAY produce more than 200,000 Scout vehicles annually.
Despite our governor’s statement that “you have to spend money to make money,” the Mom and Pop Alliance (MAPA) of South Carolina believes that a $1.3 billion outlay of state funds might deserve just a tad bit more time for discussion and debate. And we wonder, with all the incentives and funding spearheaded for big business, when will the legislature’s attention be focused on the hard-working small businesses of the Palmetto State?
MAPA has concerns that this is a boatload of money – and that our state government is once again picking winners and losers in the economy. Many would rightly argue surplus money belongs to the citizens, not to big business.
We recognize it is possible this will all work out as planned and will be a big boon for our state, but we have concerns this might also be a rosy outlook, and unfortunately, the only perspective most of our legislators are hearing. We wonder how many legislators and citizens have considered the following questions:
Are they aware of these direct quotes from Volkswagen’s own website?
“Volkswagen has built a long history with China and will remain firmly committed to its presence in China.”
“The importance of ESG is also growing continuously within our organization and is fully embedded in our decision-making processes … nevertheless we are fully aware that much more needs to be done.”
Do they have concerns about Volkswagen’s requirement that their vendors follow ESG compliance, thereby growing ESG (and it’s left-leaning political agenda) in our state – and by extension placing an ESG compliance burden on the local businesses from which they would purchase?
Do they feel confident where EV sales will be three-plus years from now given there are already many well-established competitors in this space and that EV sales have plummeted in 2023 due to the halting of tax subsidies, rising costs, and supply chain constraints?
Is now the right time to take such a gamble with so much of the people’s money?
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Do they know the very real problems of EVs and EV production such as its ties to China, child labor used in the mining of rare earth minerals, battery disposal issues, functionality during hurricanes, spontaneous fires of EVs, and lack of affordability? Perhaps these are reasons why subsidies are so often needed to boost EV sales.
Can we be assured there are no strings attached to the federal Inflation Reduction Act funds involved in the deal?
Are state leaders confident the accountability and claw-back provisions in this deal are appropriate, adequate, and fair if Volkswagen/Scout does not fulfill its expectations/obligations? This has definitely been an issue in the past in South Carolina.
Do state leaders have concerns over the lack of EV charging infrastructure and the costs required to build it? Do we know if our electrical grid can withstand the extra load? Remember, over Christmas during a cold spell the Upstate experienced rolling blackouts.
These are just a few of the questions MAPA has for this proposed $1.3 billion use of citizens’ (including small business owners’) money. A deal this big should warrant plenty of time for the necessary debate, discussion and citizen awareness/ buy-in.
We believe that the vast majority of legislators supporting this massive “investment” of state funds are doing it in the hopes it will bring jobs to the Palmetto State, but they haven’t been given the time or the opportunity to hear both sides of the issue.
Why the rush?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Diane Hardy is a former nurse anesthetist turned entrepreneur, who opened a franchise at Verdae in Greenville over five years ago. She is executive director of the Mom and Pop Alliance of SC, which she founded during Covid upon discovering South Carolina’s almost 400,000 small businesses had little representation in our State House. The Alliance provides education, communication, and advocacy for SC’s family-owned businesses. Her passion for South Carolina’s small business is strong, and as such she donates her time to the organization, accepting no salary or government funding. Her love for our state isn’t new. Before launching the Mom and Pop Alliance she was the founder and host of The Palmetto Panel (2014-2019), an annual statewide conference highlighting issues impacting South Carolina. Diane has a bachelor’s degree in nursing and psychology from Michigan State as well as a master’s degree from MUSC.
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