Harry Huntley began his career in government by accident when in 1989 he was appointed by Gov. Carroll Campbell to fill the unexpired term of Richland County auditor. In 1990, he ran for the office.
“This was my first venture into politics and I was opposed by a two-term county council member. I won that election and remained in office for a total of 18 years,” Huntley explained.
Huntley then moved to a state agency, SC Jobs-Economic Development Authority (JEDA) where he serves as executive director. He also serves as executive director of InvestSC, which manages investments for the SC Venture Capital Authority (VCA). Both of these positions are very unique in government. JEDA is the only statewide qualified conduit issuer of tax-exempt bonds and issues bonds for small manufacturers, nonprofits and solid waste disposal facilities. Customers range from small borrowers such as YMCAs and charter schools to large hospital systems, university foundations and tire recyclers.
InvestSC is the designated investor group which oversees the venture capital investments of the VCA. This state program that has successfully leveraged borrowed funds to create or retain over 1400 jobs in South Carolina over the past seven years.
As executive director, Huntley’s position focuses on finance related duties and only occasional traditional accounting duties. Busy season is often dependent on economic conditions and interest rate cycles. Much of JEDA’s business in the past was from small manufacturers, Huntley said, but the low interest rate environment has compressed the difference between taxable and tax-exempt rates to the point that it is not advantageous for them to use tax-exempt bonds. Larger borrowers, however, are reaping significant savings from refinancing bonds that are callable, as well as funding new projects in such a low rate environment.
“We have recently seen a spurt of activity with 13 new applications for bond financing in the past three months, compared to 15 for each of the past three years. It is great to see the new hospitals, schools, senior living facilities and industrial projects that create many new jobs and improve the quality of life in SC. While we don’t have the tax season deadlines to deal with, we have deadlines that come and go constantly as we work each of these projects to closing.”
Huntley said transparency and public scrutiny are much greater in government than in the private sector. Even though JEDA receives no state funds and is completely self-supporting, it is still necessary to maintain a high level of transparency, he added.