By Elyssa Parnell
WHITMIRE — Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee commended Jimmy Hancock of SeaPro Boats on Tuesday for what he hopes is part of the resurgence of American manufacturing.
“It takes a lot of courage to manufacture something, an extraordinary amount of risk, a great deal of vision,” Huckabee said during a stop at the new facility in Whitmire. “It’s the easiest thing in the world to let someone else do it. It’s the hardest thing in the world to dive off into deep water (literally) and to say we’re going to build something.”
Huckabee told Hancock that it took a lot of courage to take a facility like the former Renfro building in Whitmire and fill it with employees who will go home each week with a paycheck.
“The best thing in the world for every American is to be able to take home a paycheck,” Huckabee said.
Hancock said SeaPro is basically in its embryonic phase, but hopes to have more for the community to see in just a few months.
Huckabee said America has lost five million manufacturing jobs since 2000 and 60,000 manufacturing plants across the country have closed in that same time.
“Anytime you see somebody that is going to be making something and building something in the U.S. again, it gives me a real sense of hope,” Huckabee said.
A lot of those jobs and plants were lost to Mexico, China, Indonesia and other parts of the world because many American government policies have made it so businesses are going against competitors that make a similar product while having to compete with their own government on taxes, regulations and the overall business environment.
The tax laws alone in America, Huckabee said, cost businesses $500 billion per year.
“That’s not money that produces boats or anything else. It’s money that just produces a mountain of paperwork for the government to keep up with,” Huckabee said.
Fortunately for SeaPro, South Carolina tries to make business something that can thrive in South Carolina.
“It’s very commendable that what SeaPro is doing is taking an existing facility, one that used to make things and employ people and resurrect this facility and be able to utilize a resource that’s already here in a community that once had a lot of people working on this floor,” Huckabee said.
By the first of the year, SeaPro hopes to produce 20 boats a week, which Huckabee said was ambitious for a new start-up operation.
“The people in Whitmire have to be pretty excited about the prospects of eventually seeing over 200 people who will come to work and take home a good paycheck that they can take care of their families with,” Huckabee said.
Huckabee said he could remember a time when it was not uncommon for Americans to work at a good company, be treated well by folks who cared about their product and their people, and be able to work there for a long time.
“Sadly, so many of those jobs have disappeared over the last couple of decades,” Huckabee said. “I am convinced that one of the ways that America has to be able to revive itself is to manufacture and make things.”
A country has to be able to feed itself, fuel itself and fight for itself, Huckabee said, adding that to feed itself, a country must grow its own food and fiber.
“You never want to import your food,” he said. “If you do, whoever is feeding you owns you.”
For fuel, Huckabee said we must make sure we do not depend on the Middle East or Russia for energy sources when we have reliable energy under our feet in the United States that needs exploring and exporting.
Being able to fight for ourselves means we need to manufacture our own weapons, he said.
“If we ever have to import our weapons of self-defense, we are importing our freedom,” Huckabee said. “America should never be in a position where it has to depend on somebody else to keep it free.”
Even though SeaPro is not building warships in Whitmire, the skills being taught and deployed there are skills to help make America strong and make the families of Whitmire strong, Huckabee said.
Newberry County Councilman Scott Cain said Huckabee’s visit to SeaPro showcased the hard work that Whitmire had been doing.
“To have a presidential candidate come see this new company speaks volumes as far as how they are doing and how they are showcasing what they have here,” Cain said.
Whitmire Mayor Billy Hollingsworth said he loved having Huckabee come to the town Tuesday. “I hope from this other things will develop,” Hollingsworth said.
Huckabee also made a stop at the Newberry Opera House on Tuesday night.
Reach Elyssa Parnell at 803-276-0625, ext. 1868, or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.