The Palmetto Insider

The blog of the South Carolina Policy Council

A Pig in a Hat is Still a Pig

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A great way to dress up taxpayer-funded corporate giveaway is to wrap it in academic robes.

That’s what’s happening in the Upstate with the announcement that Clemson will give Golden, Colo.-based Proterra, Inc. $68 million to build an electric bus manufacturing plant in Greenville County.

How is this different from taxpayers giving millions to Boeing to build airplanes, or to Sembler to build a shopping mall, or to state and local government to give first $140 million, and as of last night another $150 million, to Innovista?

It’s not, but funneling a taxpayer giveaway through academia is shrewd politics. Wind turbines, hydrogen technology, a “research campus,” electric buses – if you can make it look like higher education, you can better camouflage such taxpayer-funded giveaways.

The $68 million electric bus announcement came yesterday at Clemson’s International Center for Automotive Research – the same night that the Columbia City Council voted to prop up Innovista with more than $150 million in taxpayer-funded corporate charity.

Innovista is another government boondoggle wrapped in the mantle of higher education. Innovista, the University of South Carolina’s 500-acre research campus, was supposed to attract private, high-tech corporations. After four years and $140 million in tax dollars, Innovista remains a virtual ghost town.

“Innovista has been a colossal failure and there’s really no way to sugar coat that,” Policy Council President Ashley Landess said last night in a WACH Fox television news report. “The whole point of this was to create jobs and attract lots of private capital investment; neither of those things have happened.”

Former Roche executive Don Herriott came on as director of Innovista Partnerships on Feb. 1. Part of his job, according to Innovista is “working with university, community and business leaders to advance the strategic plan for Innovista.” It would appear that the first order of business was to squeeze another $150 million out of taxpayers. Mission accomplished.

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Written by Robert Appel

February 5, 2010 at 4:58 pm

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