Mauldin Chamber of Commerce hosted the State Chamber of Commerce luncheon meeting at noon on September 20th to discuss important issues facing South Carolina. The meeting concluded with healthcare costs being the main concern among citizens. Business owners and chamber members from Mauldin, and other parts of South Carolina gathered to view a presentation by State Chamber President, Ted Pitts. Members were invited to interact, provide feedback and learn where South Carolina stands on resolving challenges. Difficult topics were grazed including healthcare, taxes, energy costs, legal climate, government fiscal health, regulations and workforce shortages. Some progress has been made, but South Carolina is still a work-in-progress.
The State Chamber of Commerce contacted President/CEO of the Mauldin Chamber, Pat Pomeroy and requested that The Grassroots Tour 2017 meeting be held in Mauldin. Pomeroy was honored to host the event and thrilled by the crowd, “We had a great turn out,” she said. Round tables were set up in the conference room and were full of eager individuals who’d like to see positive changes in their community. The main objective of The Grassroots Tour 2017 was explained by Pitts, “We’re here to get your feedback on what small businesses in your area want or need.” Their agenda is to stay competitive and keep South Carolina thriving, “We’re doing nineteen stops similar to these to survey our community.” Each member was given a clicking device and asked questions about their biggest issues. Members responded with answers and results were populated on a screen for everyone to see. Afterwards, the State Chamber will bring the results to policy makers to aid in state decision-making.
Healthcare costs are the main concern of businesses across all regions. According to the healthcare slides shared, “Employer-based premiums have increased 20% in the last five years and individual premiums have doubled since 2013.” Taxes were also a concern for members. Pitts provided a comparison to other states, “South Carolina 7% income tax rate is the 41st highest in the country and sales tax is 19th lowest. Approximately 47.1% of all South Carolina state and local taxes are paid by businesses.” Another problem business owners face is finding applicants with adequate skills. Lastly, many members wanted to see a change for less business licensing requirements, but resolution efforts are still in the works.
There was good news for Mauldin. One chamber member mentioned Mauldin hadn’t raised taxes since 2012 and has the 2nd best financial rating. The city has generated a slight surplus since 2012. However, not all South Carolina cities are in as good of shape. That’s why this meeting was so significant – to keep Mauldin on the up and up. Pitts emphasizes another important reason, “We have a broad base of members from all around the state. I think Grassroots meetings like these capture a broad sector of a small business community in South Carolina and the issues their facing.”
Chamber members can help direct the State on where best to focus attention. However, sometimes changes take time, but Pitts ensures, “This Grassroots Tour is helping us develop our competitive agenda. We advocate for business friendly policies at the state house and on the federal level. This is helping us identify that next main goal.” This year’s list included repairing roads across the state. Improvements have been made, but the state continues to fight for further development.
Although there are many different issues, each individual is affected differently. Ashley Harris, President/CEO of Tech Works stated, “I thought it was informative. It’s interesting to see the different perspectives that come out.” Members had opinions to share and the State Chamber let their voices be heard. Small victories start with collecting experiences from the community and can lead to big changes. The next crucial step is action by the state.♦