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Governor sings Spice Girls hit to explain SC’s economic development approach

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Governor sings Spice Girls hit to explain SC’s economic development approach

Nov 28, 2023 | 2:58 pm ET
By Jessica Holdman
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Governor sings Spice Girls hit to explain SC’s economic development approach
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South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster speaks to a crowd during an election night party for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Nov. 3, 2020, in Columbia, South Carolina. (Sean Rayford / Getty Images)

WEST COLUMBIA — When it comes to South Carolina’s economic development strategy, Gov. Henry McMaster thinks the Spice Girls explain it best.

The 76-year-old Republican governor took to the mic with a sampling of the British girl band’s 1997 chart-topper “Wannabe” during a Tuesday breakfast gathering of the Greater Cayce-West Columbia Chamber of Commerce.

When executives ask about the state’s approach to training workers for jobs each time a new manufacturer opens a South Carolina facility, McMaster told the audience, he turns to the pop divas for inspiration.

“Tell me what you want, what you really, really want,” the governor sang out.

“That’s it. That’s all you got to do. Tell us what you want, what you really, really want and we’ll train them and send them to you,” McMaster continued.

The brief performance earned McMaster an early-morning burst of laughter from the roomful of business and governmental leaders, smiling at the antics over their coffee cups.

McMaster went on to describe the state technical college system’s ReadySC program. When a new company comes to South Carolina, the program will send educational experts across the globe to learn about that firm’s manufacturing processes first-hand at one of the company’s existing facilities. Those fact-finding missions are used to develop curriculum for people here, who receive intensive classroom and on-the-job instruction to get them ready to work.

“That means that family will have a paycheck coming in,” McMaster said. “They have the opportunity to grow, to work, to provide for their families.”

The program has proven vital to manufacturing giants, such as Volvo in rural Dorchester County, as they stand up massive plants in the Palmetto State. And when Volkswagen subsidiary Scout Motors announced it would build a $2 billion electric vehicle assembly facility in Blythewood, executives cited the area’s available workforce as a major factor in choosing the location.

Companies nationwide have struggled to find workers. In South Carolina, the unemployment rate sank to 2.9 percent in September, when there were an estimated 172,000 unfilled jobs statewide, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

McMaster also highlighted $94 million of funding in last year’s budget to provide scholarships to technical college students pursuing degrees in high-demand career fields, such as healthcare, IT, manufacturing and logistics.

It’s not the first time McMaster has cited lyrics in his speeches, though he tends to quote blues and country artists. In 2020, he ended a high school commencement speech in Florence by breaking out his guitar and singing a Paul McCartney song.