COLUMBIA The S.C. House of Representatives overwhelmingly agreed Wednesday to borrow $120 million and give it to Boeing to help the aircraft maker expand its manufacturing facility in North Charleston and hire up to 2,000 additional people.
The vote was 115-2, with only state Reps. Ralph Norman, R-York, and Bill Chumley, R-Spartanburg, voting no.
The aerospace giant will use the money to buy 320 acres and prepare the land for construction. Adding 2,000 jobs would bring Boeing’s total employment to 10,000 in North Charleston, where workers build aft-bodies of 787s and paint the aircraft. Boeing officials say they already have spent $1 billion in North Charleston and plan to spend $1 billion more with this expansion.
The state Senate introduced and passed the incentive bill last week, an extraordinary feat of speed for that notoriously slow-moving body. Republican Gov. Nikki Haley has said she would sign the bill.
Critics, including Norman, say lawmakers are moving too fast to give that much money to a private company.
House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, said lawmakers are not facing a deadline. But he said they were trying to get the bill passed before the state’s PGA golf tournament this weekend, the RBC Heritage presented by Boeing.
The Heritage – South Carolina’s only recurring PGA tour event – was in danger of folding two years ago until major sponsors, including Boeing, rescued it.
“We know we’re going to pass it, and it would be nice to have it done before Boeing comes to host the Heritage, so, when all of their high brass is in town, they will come here knowing we have taken care of this legislation,” Harrell told The (Columbia) State after the House passed the bill.
Other critics, including state Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, worry the incentives increase the state’s debt.
Harrell said the $120 million state investment is 10 percent of what Boeing plans to invest. “We always prefer not to have debt, but sometimes you have to do that to make good things happen.”
South Carolina’s unemployment rate is 8.6 percent, almost a percentage point higher than the national jobless rate.
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