From The Post and Courier

If you live here, you already know the Palmetto State is beautiful … and growing quickly. This legislative session we have a unique opportunity to make big decisions that could shape South Carolina for decades to come. Striking a healthy balance between economic development and sustainability will be paramount.

In his recent inauguration remarks, Gov. Henry McMaster said: “Today, our economy is as strong as it has ever been in modern times. South Carolina’s booming economy has once again created a record budget surplus. So, it should come as no surprise that 2022 was the most successful year for economic development in our state’s history. In fact, we broke the record for the largest economic development project announcement — not once, but twice — in the same year.”

The most significant of the investments in the Palmetto State come from the shift from the industrial to the sustainable revolution. Businesses, including the 1,200 global companies that already have operations in South Carolina, are expressing increased interest in becoming net-zero and water positive, with zero waste.

If we play our cards right, we have seen only the tip of the iceberg of what businesses we can attract to the Palmetto State. These are the next billion-dollar companies, and many of them come with smaller footprints and higher-paying jobs for South Carolinians.

To elaborate on the record successes our state has seen in the past several months: Redwood Materials announced a $3.5 billion electric battery investment in the Lowcountry, BMW announced a $1.7 billion investment to expand existing operations to manufacture electric vehicles, and Bosch will invest about $460 million on hydrogen fuel cell technology and $750 million to manufacture electric motors for Rivian vehicles. These are just a few of the many recent examples of clean energy investments in the state.

In that same address, Gov. McMaster also stated: “Vigorous economic growth and the preservation of our shared natural heritage and environment are not opposing objectives which must be balanced as in a competition, one against the other. Instead, they are complementary, intertwined and inseparable, each dependent on the other. Each can be accomplished to the fullest if we plan now and be bold.”
Sustainability, the practice of preserving our agrarian heritage, the unique landscapes and pristine natural resources that we are blessed with in the Palmetto State, will need to play an important role in these discussions if we are to continue to see economic success.

Fortunately, groups such as Sustain SC have made it their mission to connect the sustainability goals of business in South Carolina with local solutions for the benefit of our economy, environment and people. We will need to work with such groups even more moving forward.

Our state economy will always depend on our natural resources. Two major sectors, agribusiness to tourism, both rely heavily on conserving the state’s natural resources. As we look at expanding economic growth across South Carolina, businesses are increasingly asking that sustainability be a part of the conversation.

Many of the state’s largest employers such as BMW, Volvo, Boeing, Milliken and Sonoco are leaders in pairing commerce with conservation. These companies are already working with organizations such as Sustain SC to help us ensure our state fosters sustainable economic growth.

For South Carolina to compete in a global economy, we must continue to offer local solutions for these companies to find innovative approaches to meet their customer demands. Gov. McMaster, U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott and other leaders in our state recognize we can lead the nation with business-powered solutions that will benefit the Palmetto State for generations. It is now up to the state Legislature to follow through on these lofty aspirations.

Nathan Ballentine represents parts of Richland and Lexington counties in the S.C. House.