Representatives from the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce held a meeting Sept. 5 as part of a statewide tour intended to listen to the businesses' concerns.

The “Grassroots Tour” is part of the South Carolina Chamber Alliance Partnership that connects the state, regional and local chambers of commerce and their members.

The Chamber said feedback received from the meetings will help shape the 2018 Competitiveness Agenda, which lays out the state chamber’s priorities for next year’s legislative session.

Ted Pitts, SC chamber president, said in the past year several goals were accomplished, including filling the workforce pipeline and the state Legislature passing the gas tax bill to repair the state’s roads and bridges.

The infrastructure bill will be able to provide “a sustainable, recurring, diversified revenue stream at DOT,” Pitts said. “We’re not going to get out of that situation in the long term, but it provides a sustainable revenue that helps us start working on that problem.”

He said the chamber failed in “cutting the red tape on business licensing.”

At a stop in Orangeburg County, a hot-button issue is Council’s passage of a business license ordinance. The license will place a fee on the annual gross income of entities doing business within the county.

Pitts said Orangeburg had a competitive advantage by not having the license as “businesses make decisions on where taxes are the lowest.”

The license will be an added burden on businesses, he said.

“What you’ve done to businesses in Orangeburg, you’ve just added another business license, another tax-compliance thing that they have to now do when they (council) had a means and property taxes where they could generate revenue if they actually need it,” Pitts said.

He said areas in South Carolina such as Summerville might have as many as 30 business licenses.

“That’s 30 different expiration dates, that’s 30 different rate classes, that’s a problem,” Pitts said. “It’s one of the most business-unfriendly things we do in the state.”

Moving forward, the state chamber wants to work on a system to standardize this licensing process for businesses.

Pitts said the chamber would work with the S.C. Municipal Association to create a process that doesn’t negatively impact local governments and also provides businesses a more business-friendly option.

“A victory for the business community would be able to have an apples-to-apples system where you go one place and you can apply for all your business licenses, you can pay the bill in one place and it’s distributed,” he said.

During the meeting, audience members were given electronic clickers to vote on issues they felt were most pressing to Orangeburg businesses.

Taxes received some of the most votes. These included property taxes, which received the most, then business license taxes and finally income taxes.

Pitts said South Carolina has the highest manufacturing property taxes in the country.

“South Carolina’s at the wrong end of that list, we’re No. 1,” he said.

Commercial property taxes are the eighth highest, and at 7 percent, the income tax rate is the 41st highest.

Overall tax climate in South Carolina is ranked as the 36th worst by the Tax Foundation and 42nd worst by the American Legislative Exchange Council Annual Report.

The state chamber will make 19 stops throughout the state during the months of September and October.

Remaining tour stops are:

Wednesday, September 13, 8:00 AM

Florence and Hartsville Chambers of Commerce

Thursday, September 14, 4:00 PM

Greer, Greenville, and Simpsonville Chambers of Commerce

Monday, September 18, 11:00 AM

Anderson Chamber of Commerce

Tuesday, September 19, 8:30 AM

Greater Bluffton Chamber of Commerce

Wednesday, September 20, 12:00 PM

Greater Mauldin Chamber of Commerce

Thursday, September 21, 8:30 AM

Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce

Monday, September 25, 12:00 PM

Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce

Tuesday, September 26, 8:30 AM

Georgetown Chamber of Commerce

Wednesday, September 27, 12:00 PM

York County Regional Chamber of Commerce

Friday, September 29, 8:00 AM

Clemson Area, Oconee County, Liberty, and Pickens Chambers of Commerce

Tuesday, October 17, 8:30 AM

Greenwood Chamber of Commerce

Thursday, October 19, 7:30 AM

Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce

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