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Department of Commerce taking recruiting trip

Aerospace
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Editor's note: A previous version of this story contained incorrect information. BMW has disputed national news reports that it is moving some of its manufacturing efforts out of the country in response to rising costs brought on by new tariffs. 

Aerospace is big business for South Carolina, and the state intends to keep it that way.

South Carolina is home to more than 400 aerospace-related companies and generated more than $6 billion in export sales of aircraft last year, according to the S.C. Department of Commerce. State officials hope to keep those numbers climbing during a recruiting trip to the Farnborough International Airshow, which begins Monday in the United Kingdom.

“This state has had a lot of success in the aerospace industry,” S.C. Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said Thursday in a conference call. “We have been able to recruit many companies, particularly those based in foreign countries.”

The 15-person S.C. delegation, including Gov. Henry McMaster, leaves for the airshow today. It's McMaster's first trip to the event.

“These trips are very fruitful for us,” Hitt said. “The goal is to leverage relationships with current companies in our state and have them promote and introduce us to other groups. We have about 75 meetings scheduled for the event.”

The state’s largest aerospace company is Boeing. In 2009, the company chose North Charleston as a final assembly and delivery facility for the 787 Dreamliner. The Lowcountry site shares production with a facility in Everett, Wash. The two sites produce 12 planes a month, with plans to increase to 14 planes per month next year.

Washington state wants to have the company produce the 797, Boeing's potential new aircraft, at its facility, but Hitt said Boeing is aware of the advantages South Carolina has to offer.

“We have had conversations with Boeing, and it would be way too early to talk dollars and cents,” Hitt said. “We are aware of what Washington has done and reviewed its proposal. Boeing knows we’re interested and knows we can be competitive. I can assure you neither state has an edge. It will be a very competitive activity.”

Hitt expects tariffs to be a topic of discussion at the event. He said most companies are waiting to see how things play out.

“If they (tariffs) last beyond a reasonable time, and it begins to affect the company, I believe you will start to see some action,” Hitt said. “Companies will begin to move things around to minimize the adverse impact of the tariff.”

Reach Travis Boland at 803-726-7543.

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