A new study shows manufacturing continues to contribute to South Carolina's economy despite significant job losses in the sector.
The study, prepared by a Columbia consultant for the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance, found the state's manufacturers paid an average annual wage of $44,876, about 26 percent higher than the state average for all types of jobs.
By contrast, the average wage for state government workers was $40,092. It was $23,862 for retail employees and $34,996 for textile mill workers.
The study also found manufacturers responsible for nearly 13 percent - or more than $521 million - of property tax revenue during fiscal year 2008. Much of that revenue went to local school districts.
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"Contrary to what we too often hear and see in the public dialogue, manufacturing still matters and the growth potential for South Carolina's manufacturing sector is significant," said Bobby Hitt, public affairs manager at BMW Manufacturing Co. and chairman of the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance.
The analysis of the economic impact of manufacturing comes as state lawmakers consider a comprehensive overhaul to tax policy, a move that could change current sales tax exemptions for manufacturers.
Lewis Gossett, president of the manufacturers alliance, said his group is concerned about the work of the South Carolina Tax Realignment Commission, which lawmakers created last year to review tax policy. The commission is scheduled to report to lawmakers in March.
Commission members have said they'll take a hard look at nearly 80 exemptions to the 6 percent sales tax. Those include breaks for machinery, electricity and fuel used in manufacturing.
"We're very concerned about the work of the reform commission, and we're hoping that there will be a product that emerges that is pro-manufacturing" and favorable to manufacturers that have been in South Carolina as well as those the state wants to recruit, Gossett said.
All together, sales tax exemptions add up to more than $2.7 billion a year, according to a 2008 analysis by the state Board of Economic Advisors.