Politics & Government

A hit with businesses, SC Commerce secretary to stay at his job in McMaster cabinet

Having won his first full term on a campaign touting job gains and economic expansion, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster on Thursday said Bobby Hitt will continue serving as S.C. secretary of Commerce.

Hitt, a former BMW executive and managing editor at The State, was appointed by former Gov. Nikki Haley in 2011.

Hitt was Haley’s first cabinet pick, a sign, she said at the time, that economic development was her administration’s top priority. McMaster has embraced that priority and sought to strengthen it.

Since taking office in January 2017, McMaster has announced businesses plan to make more than $8 billion in capital investment in the state, creating 25,000 jobs.

“I am grateful that he will continue to work with me in building on the successes our state has experienced and take those efforts to even greater heights,” McMaster said in a statement. “Every job we’re able to announce makes a difference in someone’s life, and that will always motivate Secretary Hitt and I to work every day to bring companies, big and small, to our state and take care of them when they get here so they can thrive and grow here.”

Hitt said he looks forward “to building on the momentum we’ve achieved together over the last few years.”

“This is good news for the state of South Carolina and our continued economic development efforts,” said S.C. Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ted Pitts. “Secretary Hitt has a proven track record … of being able to fill the needs for companies looking globally and regionally as they look to expand.

“The existing business community is focused on workforce development and (Hitt’s ) continued focus on that, and industry recruitment, is key for the future (of the state) in both the near-term and long-term.”

More announcements about McMaster’s cabinet will be made soon, according to the governor’s office.

During Hitt’s tenure as Commerce secretary, the state has seen businesses promise more than $29.5 billion in capital investment, creating more than 106,000 jobs,

The Commerce Department has spent more than $321 million over the past five years — about $65 million a year — to lure companies including Samsung, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz to South Carolina or entice them to expand. It has focused on the aerospace, automotive, life science and logistics industries.

On Tuesday, University of South Carolina economists forecast continued steady job and income gains, and increased consumer spending in the state in 2019. But they cautioned that international trade disputes and rising interest rates threaten to temper economic growth.

Thursday’s announcement comes after McMaster previously announced the resignation of Cheryl Stanton, executive director of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce, effective Friday.

Stanton, also a Haley appointee, led the agency during a period of record low unemployment.

Tom Barton: 803-771-8304, @tjbarton83
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Tom Barton covers South Carolina politics for The State. He has spent more than a decade covering local governments and politicians in Iowa and South Carolina, and has won awards from the S.C. Press Association and Iowa Newspaper Association for public service and feature writing.