Darla Moore: State’s Businesses Should Use Leverage to Demand Education Reform

Darla Moore, one of South Carolina’s most prominent business leaders and philanthropists, called for urgent action on education reform by means of teacher walkouts and the state’s largest businesses to mandate changes at the risk of those employers moving to other states. “If I were a Boeing or BMW … I would not come to South Carolina because of the education system. Today, given their economic power in this state, those and others, I would go to the leadership of this state and say, ‘You need to do something about this or I’m going to leave,’” Moore said at a “Minimally Adequate: Fix South Carolina Schools” panel discussion hosted by the Charleston Post and Courier. The panel addressed the 84-page education bill sponsored by House Speaker Jay Lucas, and Moore said she supports the elements that give principals and superintendents “the flexibility to run their own shows” away from state guidelines. Moore is in favor of an overhaul to fix the state’s “horrific” educational status and states that it will take drastic action on the part of individuals and businesses to make the necessary changes “because we can’t educate ourselves.”

Port of Charleston’s Cargo Traffic Rises for Third Straight Year, But Only Guesses Remain for What’s Next

The 2.3 million cargo containers handled at the Port of Charleston in 2018 was a 6.4% boost from the previous year, marking the third straight year of record growth. While January’s traffic continues to be robust, some fear that the pace is an indicator of “front-loading” by those trying to ship goods to the Southeast in advance of any tariffs being enacted. With imports (up 10.5% in the July 1-Dec. 31 period) exceeding exports (down 3.4% in that period), the 18,000 stacked empty containers at the Wando Welch Terminal represents a 41% rise. “From February through April, I would say we’re either in uncharted waters or we’re starting to fly into the clouds,” said State Ports Authority president and CEO Jim Newsome. “I think we’re going to see a dip (in cargo). Hopefully, it’s not too much.”

Furloughed Federal Workers Who Collected SC Unemployment Pay Now Must Return the Money

The S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce has told the 350 South Carolina furloughed federal workers who requested state unemployment benefits during the 35-day government shutdown that they must pay back any funds received now that the government has reopened and back pay has been instituted. “Since the federal workers, technically, did not lose their employment, now that they are back to work, they will have to repay the funds that helped them through their furlough,” said DEW spokeswoman Dorothy Weaver, who also indicted that repayment plans can be coordinated through either the employer or the department. A Florence air traffic controller said he was informed he and his colleagues would get three back payment checks in the next two weeks as a way for tax penalties to not take affect for the larger than typical payments that reflect the time essential employees worked without pay during holidays for Christmas, New Year’s and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Charleston Churches, Nonprofits Are Sorting out 21% Federal Tax on Parking Spots as Employee Benefit

The Charleston Post and Courier is gauging reaction and advice for a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provision that requires nonprofits to pay a new 21% tax on employee parking benefits. “I don’t think it’s going to hurt people in the Southeast as much as other parts of the country,” said Columbia-based John Camp, CPA, who notes that nonprofits in urban areas are more likely to provide mass transit perks. But there could be a pinch on the “Holy City” of Charleston as religious groups there become aware of the ruling and determine if they can budget for it. “It’s a 21% tax on that spot that says ‘preacher parking,’” said David Thompson, the vice president of public policy for the National Council of Nonprofits. “The churches have said it’s nuts, and we believe they’re right.” There is a March 31 deadline for a loophole to avoid paying the tax.

Columbia Ranked as Competitive in Entrepreneur Environment but Aims to Improve in Livability

In an annual ranking of business competitiveness among 10 similar Southeastern cities, Columbia jumped six spots to third place in the category of entrepreneurial and business environment behind Charleston and Tallahassee, Fla. The fifth annual Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report from the nonprofit EngenuitySC also examines federal data for talent, innovative capacity, industry clusters and livability. To improve upon its ranking of seventh in livability, a newly created Midlands Business Leadership Group, with representatives from more than 50 public, private and civic organizations in Richland and Lexington counties, announced it will help up to three economic well-being projects annually. The report ranked Greenville as second behind Raleigh for available talent.