Charleston ripe for investment from Wall Street firms, state treasurer says; Trump also bullish on region

By: John McDermott and Schuyler Kropf
From: The Post and Courier

South Carolina’s state treasurer is hoping a national gathering of government money handlers in Charleston will yield a bigger long-term payoff.

Curtis Loftis said he urged the State Financial Officers Foundation to hold its 2015 spring meeting downtown in part to show off the city to the movers and shakers from the investment world who attend the group’s events.

“I think the more I can expose them to Charleston the better chance we’ll have of them moving some or all of their operations here,” Loftis said.

Loftis said 16 state treasurers who are responsible collectively for more than $1 trillion in financial assets are in attendance. Also on hand are numerous representatives from big banks and other firms that invest public pension money.

Loftis said he will form a task force this summer to explore ways of luring more financial service jobs to Charleston or other parts of the state. He called it a “clean, crisp business” with deep pockets, pointing to Citigroup’s ATD electronic stock-trading outpost in Mount Pleasant.

“It’s a relatively small amount of people, but the economic benefit is massive,” Loftis said.

Charleston is an ideal location to promote because many Wall Street executives are already acquainted with the historic district and other nearby destinations, either as second-home owners or as visitors.

“They vacation here,” Loftis said. “They love Daniel Island. They love Kiawah Island.”

Delaware is among the states that have “tweaked” their laws to entice financial service firms.

“All of the sudden they’re the credit card capital of the world. ... We ought to get our share,” he said.

At least one well-known business tycoon and possible presidential candidate spoke about investing in the Lowcountry at the conference.

“I think Charleston is a fantastic place ... becoming an unbelievable tourist destination, one of the finest in the country, and I like Charleston very much,” real estate developer Donald Trump said after his keynote address. “And I like the people very much. It’s something that I could do.”

In fact, Trump said he already has “invested in something” in the Charleston region. He declined to elaborate Monday but said he might be ready discuss the deal in more detail next time he visits.

“I’ll announce it at the appropriate time,” Trump said. “It’s very interesting.”

One of his sons, Donald Trump Jr., is involved in the ownership of the former Navy hospital on Rivers Avenue in North Charleston. Trump Sr. hasn’t been directly linked to any venture in the Lowcountry, at least publicly, though one of his recent purchases had a local tie-in.

His Trump Organization bought the financially troubled Doonbeg Golf Club and the Lodge at Doonbeg in western Ireland for about $20.5 million in February 2014. The seaside resort property was originally built and owned by an affiliate of Charleston-based Kiawah Development Partners.

Schuyler Kropf of The Post and Courier contributed to this report.