Coble: International engagement essential to Columbia, SC economy

03/28/2014 12:00 AM

03/27/2014 3:36 PM

David Brooks of The New York Times wrote a column this month about what he called “a remarkable shift in how Americans see the world and their own country’s role in the world.” As he explained: “For the first time in half a century, a majority of Americans say that the United States should be less engaged in world affairs, according to the most recent Pew Research Center survey.” But Brooks says the poll shows that “America is not turning inward economically,” with more than three-quarters of Americans agreeing that we need to be more economically integrated internationally.

I believe it is very important for our own economic interests that Columbia and South Carolina be very engaged in world affairs. Our region and state are leaders in the global economy, and that means jobs here at home. In South Carolina, more than 540,000 jobs are supported by trade, and more than 100,000 people are employed by companies that are at least 50 percent foreign-owned. In the Columbia region there are more than 80 foreign companies, employing more than 18,000 people, representing more than 20 countries.

In addition to trade and investment, two of our most important institutions, Fort Jackson and the University of South Carolina, are significant international players. Beyond our military’s central role in national security, Fort Jackson is an important economic engine with a total impact of $2.8 billion each year, supporting 55,500 jobs and $1.9 billion in personal income.

USC’s International MBA just this month regained the top spot in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Graduate Schools and has been ranked in the top three for 25 consecutive years.

Another important asset in the global economy on the federal level is the U.S. International Affairs Budget that funds programs such as the Export-Import Bank that create markets for S.C. goods and services around the world. Over the past four years, the bank has financed more than $529.7 million in exports from 41 companies in 25 communities in South Carolina. Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft that are built in Charleston are sold to the world with Export-Import financing.

Our community must continue to support international efforts and programs because it is in our economic interest to be involved. The global economy means jobs right here in Columbia and in all of South Carolina.

Bob Coble

Chair, Columbia World Affairs Council


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