60 Seconds with Gen. Hank Taylor, VP of Global Business Development, Charleston Regional Development Alliance

The Show Me Spirit

The Home Depot store is no longer standing in Joplin, MO, but the clerks are busy selling building materials in the parking lot. Less than a month after a massive 200 m.p.h. tornado tore through the middle of town (killing more than 130 people), the residents of Joplin are lifting the spirits of the nation with their determination to rebuild.

Within a week after the May 22 storm, St. John’s Regional Medical Center—which took a direct hit from the tornado—resumed operations: a temporary tent hospital has been set up across the street from the wrecked building; trailers house MRI and CAT scan units; two new helipads have been paved. While most of the 900 who were injured in the tornado are being treated in neighboring towns, St. John’s says it’s now able to handle up to 60 patients at a time in its makeshift facilities.

“We can do already what we used to do in our big building, just on a smaller scale, and as we go through the next few weeks that scale will grow,” said Dr. Bob Dodson, St. John’s trauma medical director.

Over at the Home Depot, employees in orange vests are busy helping customers stock up on building materials piled high on tables in the parking lot of the demolished store. While Joplin residents queue up for plywood and roofing materials, workers are hammering away in another section of the lot, putting up a 30,000-square-foot temporary building that will open later this month.

Gen. Hank Taylor is bringing three decades of experience in the U.S. military with him as he takes command of Charleston’s global development effort.

BF: You bring a unique combination of corporate and government experience to your new position. Will this give you an advantage in bringing new business to Charleston?

HT: The totality of my experiences will be instrumental in recruiting international business to the Charleston, SC. region, which comprises Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties. During my military service I visited 27 different countries, acquiring deep insights and an appreciation for many cultural differences. I understand the necessity of constructive relationships, the importance of patience, knowledge of business needs and pacing.

BF: What are the strongest reasons for foreign companies to consider locating a facility in the Charleston area?

HT: World class companies tell us that our low cost of doing business, our available and skilled workforce, and our strategic transportation infrastructure make our region the right place for companies to do business. With more than 700 internationally-owned firms in South Carolina and 94 of those in our market, Charleston is already on the global stage. The strongest reason for locating in the region is our infrastructure and assets, which includes the most efficient and eighth busiest Port in the U.S. With the addition of Boeing, Charleston is one of three places in the world assembling and delivering wide-body commercial aircraft. We are also home to the world’s largest wind turbine drivetrain testing facility. Not to mention, we have one of the world’s largest concentrations of construction and engineering professions and a growing pool of skilled, educated talent.

BF: Boeing’s decision to put its 787 assembly line in North Charleston was a huge boost to aerospace manufacturing in South Carolina. Do you think the Charleston are can become the leading U.S. aerospace manufacturing hub?

HT: Yes, our goal is to become a leading manufacturing hub and an R&D/innovation location for aerospace and wind energy, given their shared synergies. The Charleston Regional Development Alliance has just rolled out our new regional economic development strategy, Opportunity Next. The aerospace industry is one of the four targeted industry clusters, including advanced security and IT, biomedical, and wind energy.

BF: Do you agree that a regional approach is the best way to win a greater share of increased shipping traffic from the expansion of the Panama Canal?

HT: The Port is a statewide asset and a key economic engine for South Carolina. With direct service to more than 140 countries worldwide it represents a strategic advantage for companies seeking global connections. Charleston’s Port terminals are closer to the open sea, with deeper channels, than any competing port in the region. And it’s currently the only port in the Southeast efficiently handling post-Panamax vessels up to 8,000 TEU.