Deflecting criticism that she has spent too many days out of town in recent weeks, Gov. Nikki Haley said Wednesday that those trips whether to pitch companies in Japan or Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney to voters always have one purpose.
Everything I do is an economic-development issue, Haley told The State. Theres not a place I will go that I dont bring South Carolina jobs into it.
Haley said even appearing on news shows helps the states bottom line: Every time you see me get on national TV and be a union buster, we have another CEO who calls. Theres a method to my madness.
Haley recently returned from a weeklong trade mission to Japan with S.C. Department of Commerce officials that included 23 economic-development meetings. No deals were announced on the trip, which carries a preliminary price tag to the state of $54,000. But Haley, who attended 16 of the 23 meetings, said projects need to time to come to fruition.
The Japan trip was Haleys third foreign trade mission in less than two years. A $158,000 trade trip to Paris and Germany last year yielded one new project and five expansions, Commerce officials said. No deals have been announced yet from a $106,000 trip to the Farnborough International Airshow outside London this summer that also featured the governor and other state officials.
Haley said she had not planned to go to Japan. But Commerce leaders told the governor that some Japanese executives asked that she make the trip to the Japan-U.S. Southeast Association meeting in Tokyo.
When Commerce asks me to do anything, I have always said, Dont send me on a trip that is not going to (get) results and dont send me on a trip for fluff, Haley said.
Haley also took along her husband, Michael, who participated in economic-development meetings when the first-term Republican governor had a scheduling conflict. He did the same thing during her European trip last year, she said.
Michael Haley, who paid his own expenses on the Paris and Tokyo trips, attended meetings when a Commerce person wasnt enough, where we needed to have CEO-type presence, she said.
Hes a great salesman for South Carolina. Companies get along with him really well, Haley said of her husband who works for the S.C. National Guard. Certainly Asian companies, they are comfortable talking to male counterparts, so it worked out.
In recent weeks, Haley has attended a Republican Governors Association roundtable in Colorado, stumped for Romney in three states and spoke at the Republican National Convention in Florida.
If you saw ... the national convention, my job was to go and talk about the good in Gov. Romney, but I was not going to miss the opportunity to sell my great state, Haley said. I sell the state everywhere we go because there are businesspeople in those audiences.
Critics say Haley cannot put all her travel under one label.
Economic development is not standing on a stage and saying the word South Carolina, said Amanda Loveday, executive director of the S.C. Democratic Party. Nikki Haley is doing this to promote herself.
Haley said she has built a record of helping create jobs in the state a number that she puts at more than 27,000 since coming to office nearly two years ago.
Its interesting (that for) eight years prior to me they complained about the governor not doing enough to bring jobs, Haley said. And ... I am doing these things to get jobs. What it reminds me is that you cant please everybody all the time.