By Jim Faile
State Sen. Vincent Sheheen urged high school juniors and seniors at the S.C. Governor's School for Science and Mathematics (GSSM) not to neglect their native Palmetto State after they graduate from the prestigious two-year residential high school in Hartsville.
The Democratic candidate for governor visited the school during a campaign stop in Hartsville Tuesday.
"Please consider going to college in South Carolina," the senator from Camden told students. "We need the best and brightest in our state to stay hare."
Nonetheless, he encouraged the students to follow their dreams, even if doing so takes them away from South Carolina, but added "let your dreams bring you back to South Carolina."
Sheheen said South Carolina is the only state in the Southeast that is experiencing an outmigration of its young people to other states.
"Living here in this state, being in your home community can be a rewarding experience," Sheheen said.
Sheheen said one of the chief reasons he is running for governor is to restore respect for the state. "This state has been embarrassed in the last few years," he said.
He said he believes it is the job of the next governor to help create job opportunities for young people in the state.
"You guys are the brains that can help us grow," he said.
Sheheen said his plan for improving the state's economy is to take what has worked in years past and combine it with a more active approach by the governor to recruit new development.
"I believe the governor has got to be aggressive in job recruiting," he said.
He said Gov. Mark Sanford's "hands-off approach" to economic development has caused the state to suffer.
"The governor has got to be an economic development recruiter," he said.
Sheheen said he also wants to "tweak" the S.C. Department of Commerce to help encourage more home grown business development. One way of doing that, he said, is to create a division of entrepreneurship within the department.
He said he wants to look at new opportunities for economic development. That includes exploring opportunities for "green industries." He said the state has opportunities for developing alternative fuel sources such as biofuels, particularly in its rural areas.
Sheheen also heard first-hand about the impact state budget cuts are having on education in general and the Governor's School in particular. GSSM President Dr. Murray Brockman said the school has seen its state funding cut by 27 percent.
But Brockman said the school's faculty and staff are finding innovative ways to stretch dollars and still provide a top quality education to students.
"At this point, our state budget is not sustainable, but we're doing great things," Brockman said.
Republican gubernatorial candidate state Rep. Nikki Haley was scheduled to visit the school on Thursday.