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Lightsey confirmed as S.C. Department of Commerce secretary

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Harry Lightsey has been confirmed as the new secretary of the S.C. Department of Commerce after Tuesday’s unanimous vote of the state Senate.

Lightsey, 65, brings a business background rooted in the telecommunications and automotive industries to the role, held for a decade by Bobby Hitt, who is retiring this fall.

“Secretary Lightsey joins the South Carolina Department of Commerce with years of experience leading major corporations in South Carolina and across the country,” S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster said in a statement. "His leadership skills and proven track record will make for a seamless transition in continuing the mission and building upon the success of South Carolina’s economic development efforts.”

Bobby Hitt (left) looks on as Harry Lightsey (right) is nominated by Gov. Henry McMaster (center) as S.C. Commerce Department secretary on June 17. (Photo/Melinda Waldrop) McMaster nominated Lightsey, former president of AT&T’s Southeast region and director of General Motors Corp.’s federal government affairs and emerging technology, to replace Hitt on June 17.

“I’ve spent my entire career being part of businesses that have shaped our modern lifestyle,” Lightsey said during a news conference at the S.C. Statehouse announcing his nomination. “My career in telecommunications spanned the dawn of wireless communications and the internet. My time in automobile manufacturing has seen the beginning of a technological shift that leaders like Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, have described as unparalleled since the days of Henry Ford.”

Lightsey served as president of BellSouth Telecommunications before that company’s 2006 merger with AT&T and then as president for the company’s Southeast region. He joined General Motors Corp. in 2012 and most recently served as a principal with Hawksbill Advisors, a subsidiary of consulting public policy firm Hawksbill Group.

State business leaders praised Lightsey’s selection, with Nephron owner and CEO Lou Kennedy noting his resume after his nomination and Sara Hazzard, president and CEO of the S.C. Manufacturers’ Alliance, saying in a statement: “Manufacturing plays a critical role in South Carolina’s economy, and Mr. Lightsey’s background in emerging technologies and innovation and experience with globally recognized companies positions him to build on the legacy of manufacturing strength in our state.”

Hitt, appointed state commerce secretary in January 2011, has overseen 16.7% growth in manufacturing employment and more than $35.8 billion in capital investment, according to a news release from the governor’s office. The 129,373 jobs created during Hitt’s tenure have included those at three automotive manufacturers — Volvo CarsMercedes-Benz and Arrival — which located operations in the state.   

Reach Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7542.

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