S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster will hop the pond for a weeklong international airshow in hopes of luring new investment in the state’s aerospace industry.
The governor and first lady Peggy McMaster will join a 15-member delegation led by the S.C. Department of Commerce to the United Kingdom for the Farnborough International Airshow July 16-20.
McMaster and the delegation will meet with executives from Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Toray Composite Materials America, among others.
S.C. Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said officials hope to persuade Boeing to build its next jet in North Charleston, where it now builds the 787 Dreamliner. The company also is considering building the 797 aircraft in Washington state. Boeing has been studying the market potential for a new midsize airplane to replace its 757 and 767 planes.
Lockheed Martin plans to begin building the latest version of its F-16 fighter jet in the Upstate later this year. The defense contractor also hopes to secure a contract to build the Air Force’s next generation of jets to train pilots at its Greenville facility.
Toray is in the process of seeking certification to produce carbon-fiber composite materials at a plant in Spartanburg County.
“We think these trips are very fruitful for us,” Hitt said, adding a meeting between Toray executives and then-Gov. Nikki Haley at the 2011 airshow led to the company’s decision to build its $1 billion Spartanburg plant.
The airshow trip is expected to cost S.C. taxpayers about $50,000 for airfare, hotel, transportation and exhibit expenses.
Haley’s trip to the Farnborough International Airshow outside London in July 2012 cost $97,000. However, more than $59,000 of that money went to pay for an exhibit at the show, according to records. About $158,000 in tax dollars was spent on a trip to a Paris air show in 2011.
The event attracts more than 100,000 trade and public visitors every two years.
The governor plans to depart Friday and return Wednesday, Hitt said.
Asked about retaliatory import tariffs imposed by China and the EU on US goods, Hitt said state officials have made “Washington well aware of our position” on a budding international trade war that could risk jobs and drive up manufacturing costs in South Carolina.
“Everyone is waiting to see where the impacts will lie,” Hitt said. “But the general view of what’s needed right now is a rebalancing, and everyone is pushing and pulling really hard to make sure they come out with a fair shake.”
McMaster on Wednesday told reporters he supports President Donald Trump’s efforts to ensure fair trade. But said he also wants to make sure South Carolina businesses “remain strong, and that we do all we can to see that they are not hurt by these tariffs or any sort of other action.”