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Secretary of Commerce Harry Lightsey speaks at NESA luncheon

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FLORENCE - The next five to 10 years in South Carolina are going to be transformative, state Secretary of Commerce Harry M. Lightsey III said Thursday.


Lightsey spoke at a luncheon in Florence hosted the North Eastern Strategic Alliance (NESA) at the Floyd Center of the MUSC Florence campus.


NESA is a regional economic development organization that serves nine counties – Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Georgetown, Horry, Marion, Marlboro and Williamsburg – in the northeastern corner of South Carolina with the objective to create jobs for the residents of the region by working within the existing industry base and recruiting new companies.


Lightsey told the group that things are going to change, and South Carolina needs to be ready, the Pee Dee region needs to be ready. He said workers are going to have to learn new skills and be ready for the highly-skilled jobs on the horizon. Lightsey said there will be fewer entry-level jobs and more high-quality, higher-paying jobs in the future to adjust to the ever-changing technological advances.


South Carolina needs an educated, trained and skilled workforce ready to compete.


Lightsey said there has been tremendous success in South Carolina in the last 10 years, and the people of South Carolina need to continue to look to the future and be ready.


“I am excited about that,” he said, “We need to embrace the changes to come.”


In a smaller gathering prior to the luncheon, Lightsey said, he talked with economic leaders in the area and one of the things he took away from that meeting was this is a place of diversity. He said the Pee Dee counties need to capitalize on this.


During a recent international trip to Munich, Germany, Lightsey said, he kept hearing people say that they know when they come to South Carolina and a commitment is made that we will work together, that we will make it happen.


He said that level of commitment and credibility is rare these days.


Lightsey said the Department of Commerce gives a lot of attention to new industry and business coming into the state but also a lot of its focus is on small businesses in the state.


“A big part of what the Commerce Department does is help businesses that are already here,” he said. “We are going to devote a lot of time thinking about ways to promote rural areas.”


He said people can live in rural areas and have access to the amenities of a larger area.


“We have great potential; we have made progress in our rural areas, but we still need to do better,” he said.


Sen. Kent M. Williams introduced Lightsey at the luncheon.


Williams said Lightsey has served in top executive leadership roles for major corporations in South Carolina and across the nation. He said Lightsey has been a top executive with BellSouth, AT&T and General Motors. Lightsey was the president of BellSouth Telecommunications for South Carolina prior to the company merging with AT&T, he said. Lightsey most recently served as a principal with Hawksbill Advisors. He has also served as a member of the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank in Richmond, Virginia, Williams said.


Lightsey is a 1978 graduate of Princeton University. In 1981, he graduated from the University Of South Carolina School Of Law. He and his wife have two adult.


Lightsey was appointed by Gov. Henry McMaster to serve as Secretary of Commerce in June 2021.


Lightsey said that at his confirmation hearing he told the legislators he wanted to go around the state and see what was on the people’s minds. Lightsey said he is ready to listen.


He told the group of his ties to the Pee Dee. He said his mother’s family was from the area.


“I feel close to the Pee Dee region,” he said.


Lightsey, a Columbia native, said his family spent time when he was a child vacationing at Myrtle Beach.


He said that as secretary of commerce he looks forward to many more trips to the area.

North Eastern Strategic Alliance

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Florence, South Carolina, USA 29502


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