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Letter: Testifying for veterans in our All-America county
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“Kershaw County is on the right track in Economic Development.” So said nationally recognized experts and our own Department of Commerce at the Economic Summit on 17 January. For which we should thank Mr. Carpenter and Peggy McLean and their teams and advisers and helpers in the county, among our mayors, and in C100, in KCSD and the CCTC, at state level among the utility companies, and the chamber of commerce for resolutely growing existing businesses and winning new business on the global stage. Our kids and their kids need these great jobs to stay here, to live and raise their families here in a wholesome community.

No one in county government is satisfied with simply subsisting: rather, we are aggressively and objectively revising every facet of our approach: the megasite, the industrial parks and spec buildings, the workforce. Anything that gives this “All-America County” the competitive edge to win and to win again. Join with us, as we learn from the economic summit and I welcome advice, and participation.

All who know the KershawVision (2030) statement know we are all about our people, and that our competitiveness is based on a quality workforce. Here is something tangible and recent, and which has occupied my interest among the many ways we can improve our offerings to present and future business: that is, investing in veterans to swell the ranks of our workforce.

I testified in the State Capitol on 24 January on behalf of the Governor’s Military Task Force to urge support of the Workforce Enhancement and Military Recognition Act. (S.179 and H.3135). The bill takes South Carolina into the elite club of 29 other states that have no state income tax on our veteran’s retired pay -- states that compete very well against Kershaw County in attracting new business.

I have no doubt, indeed I am absolutely convinced, that this measure will dramatically improve the quality of the workforce and thus improve our competitiveness, both in retaining and growing current industry and in winning new business on a global basis. From a lifetime of career experience in the military and in industry, I have no doubt that this act will attract experienced and reliable veterans to our workforce, and allow Kershaw County to meet the urgent needs of all types of enterprises now and in the future. Here are some reasons to do so:

• First, it is the right thing to do: Kershaw County loves its veterans.

The people of the Armed Forces, and their families, serve all over the world and they do so honorably, with an unlimited liability contract at the risk of life and limb in our defense.

• Secondly, retiring veterans are an enormous pool of talented, reliable, healthy and dedicated personnel:

Consider this -- that every veteran is at least a high school graduate, disciplined, with spotless records, physically fit, and with manifest leadership skills and the “soft skills” so much in demand in the workforce. We need soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, and their families, to come and to stay in Kershaw County and South Carolina.

• Thirdly, industry is paying close attention:

As an industrialist in the defense industry myself with 14 years of experience in producing electronics, all manner of combat equipment and new weapons systems, I can say that the skills and aptitudes that veterans bring are much in demand today.

• Lastly, as chairman of Kershaw County, I say we need this boost to a trained and ready workforce to win new business:

Our County is working hard to sustain and grow current business, and to attract new enterprises. We have invested dramatically in our infrastructure and schools (see http://visionkershaw2030.org/). Now, the No. 1 issue is the availability of a trained and ready workforce. A recent Clemson study was clear: the revenues lost to easing income tax on veterans are more than offset by revenues gained and industrial growth.

I urge the county to support this measure. It will improve our competitiveness, and not just against Georgia or Tennessee or other States but on the global scale to retain and to win new opportunities for our children, and for their children.

Julian Burns, Kershaw County Council Chair