BMW arrived in 1992 with a vision to increase the wealth of South Carolina and improve world perception of South Carolina. It has, creating and continuing to grow our automotive industry, enriching not only the Upstate but also Charleston's ports and the rest of the state.
Now politicians have dedicated $450 million to Boeing and proclaimed that the Chicago-based aircraft manufacturer Boeing would be another BMW.
But how will that happen? What do Boeing and South Carolina need to do to have a result as successful as BMW?
Boeing must not only build aircraft, but it also pay wages and benefits significantly above average for South Carolina, contract with S.C. companies and create an aerospace research center involving universities and schools in South Carolina.
Firms based in New York and Florida will design and build the Charleston plant. Boeing must give qualified companies headquartered in South Carolina a chance to do business with the aerospace icon.
But South Carolina must play an active role as well. If South Carolina does not have enough qualified companies, the state must revamp local companies, grow new ones and recruit others to move their headquarters here. Suppliers of expertise and parts also will come from companies outside our state.
Airbus, Boeing's Toulouse, France-based competitor, buys more parts, components, tooling and other material from the United States than any other country. Planes from Airbus are, in part, American made. The S.C. aerospace industry must supply both Boeing and Airbus.
That's not a far-out notion. Michelin, with its North American headquarters in Greenville, just up the road from Charleston, and with its world headquarters in Clermont-Ferrand, France, just up the road from Toulouse, is a supplier to Airbus and Boeing.
South Carolinians will continue to celebrate our partnership with Boeing. Now we need a plan to assure that both partners benefit significantly from their investments.
Our state is currently working to promote a long list of industries existing and aspiring: agribusiness, nuclear power, tourism, advanced engineering, chemical, textile, computer science, hydrogen, alternative energy, biotech, defense, military, retirement, aerospace, aquaculture, automotive and others.
Promoting all these industries in different parts of the state, without any statewide focus on the most viable industries, could be a reflection of South Carolina's economic diversity. But it is more likely a result of having no comprehensive plan to focus on a short list of the most viable of S.C. industries.
Let us bring our politicians, business leaders, educators and others together to create, fund, implement and promote a plan to focus on aerospace as one of the state's most potentially sustainable industries, interacting with and supporting the automotive, tourism and agribusiness industries to make each more highly competitive and globally sustainable.
The vision to concentrate on a few industries will help us as the recession wanes and confirm that South Carolina is, and is perceived as, a leader in international trade and global economic development.