FLORENCE – Presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Saturday that South Carolina’s success in manufacturing needs to be replicated across the country.
Santorum spoke at the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology in Florence, the first stop on campaign tour this weekend. Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, announced his candidacy on Wednesday.
Manufacturing was a key topic at the meeting Saturday, along with immigration, a federal highway system, national sales tax and ways to grow the economy.
“One of the reasons I wanted to come here and I talk about South Carolina is because you guys have made a great emphasis on recreating an opportunity and a platform to get those manufacturing jobs back,” Santorum said.
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He said institutions like SiMT serve manufacturers and provide them with opportunities to improve skills.
“It’s an exciting thing to see what’s going on here in South Carolina that could be replicated across this country, particularly if we had a better climate for manufacturing in this country,” he said.
When people think about manufacturing, Santorum said, they often think dirty, smelly and grimy. But that’s often not the case.
“And the fact of the matter is that these are good jobs in a good environment,” Santorum said. “We have to stop giving the impression that people who work with their hands and their head, somehow that’s not as good a job as if you just work with your head. That’s not true.”
Santorum said a manufacturing base is important in communities and he believes that base was the reason families were stable when he was growing up. It proved to be a healthy economy for American workers, he said.
Santorum said the United States has all sorts of folks who have barriers to work and stay employed. Those problems include drug and alcohol problems, prior incarceration, education deficiencies and family difficulties.
“And so, part of what we have to do is, we have to make sure that we have the support there that’s necessary and that we aren’t competing, bringing in competition to keep wages down to make it harder for those wages to transition,” he said.
He used an example of immigration to explain.
“The last 20 years, we brought in over 35 million people into this country, in 20 years, the highest number of any time in the history of our country,” Santorum said. “And all those workers are unskilled.”
He said the immigration policy and any other policy have to first and foremost be concerned about Americans.
Santorum was able to tour the SiMT facilities and test some of the featured technology.
Renee Woodberry was one of the people responsible for having Santorum visit Saturday, and she said it brought attention to the Pee Dee area.
“We have a huge outreach here of industry,” Woodberry said. “He’s talking to the blue-collar workers about manufacturing jobs, and this is the perfect place for him to be because we reach out to Marion County, Darlington County, Horry County, all over.”
Woodberry said she hopes that other leaders and candidates will realize that Florence is the “Mecca” of the Florence area, but the city reaches farther than that.