Monday, September 14, 2009

Effort launched to attract companies' headquarters to Greenville complex

Public, private push on to fill South Financial complex

By Rudolph Bell
Business writer

Everyone from state Commerce Secretary Joe Taylor to Greenville Mayor Knox White has signed on to a push to fill the corporate headquarters complex along Interstate 85 that The South Financial Group built then decided not to occupy.

Taylor visited the property, and the Upstate Alliance, the regional economic development organization, showed it to site consultants and real estate brokers. There’s also a Web site offering a virtual tour in case prospects can’t inspect the complex in person.

Veteran site consultant Jeannette Goldsmith of Greenville said communities that expect to win the intense competition for headquarters relocations must adopt a deliberate strategy and execute it with vigor.

“Companies aren’t just going to wake up one day and say, ‘You know, I really think we ought to move our headquarters to South Carolina.’ If that’s what we’re waiting on, it won’t happen,” Goldsmith said.

She pointed to Tennessee, which spent years courting Nissan before the Japanese carmaker decided to move its North American headquarters to Nashville from Los Angeles in 2005.

Goldsmith, who represented Nissan in the move, said Tennessee first identified the best prospects among the companies that were already doing business in the state and worked to strengthen its relationships with them. Those included Nissan because of its longtime plant in Smyrna, outside of Nashville.

Tennessee’s efforts also included a new incentive especially for recruiting headquarters – a credit against the corporate income tax that allows companies to recoup relocation expenses.

If South Carolina is making similar efforts, Goldsmith said she’s not aware of it.

South Carolina has a different kind of tax credit aimed at headquarters, but it’s “kind of confusing and not very useful,” she said. More here.

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