Next time you hear an announcement about a big business deal bringing thousands of jobs to South Carolina, avert your gaze from the dignitaries at the podium and peek into the back of the room. Odds are good that you’ll see Stephanie Yarbrough, a partner at the business law firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge and Rice, LLP, beaming.
Womble Carlyle worked on many of South Carolina’s largest economic development projects in 2015, though it’s ethically bound not to reveal who they are. It negotiates the state and local incentives offered to companies locating or increasing their commitment here, and bringing large numbers of decent-paying jobs with them. That’s Yarbrough’s work.
Yarbrough, the former director of economic development for the City of Charleston has negotiated deals that have brought more than 10,000 new jobs to the state. She says her firm has companies in the pipeline interested in either moving or in boosting their presence here. She enters the process when companies are just contemplating construction of new facilities or headquarters in South Carolina.
Yarbrough navigates her clients through the thicket of available incentives and the complexities of securing access to the ports, power, rail, and water; tackling environmental, corporate and tax considerations; and anything else necessary for the best deal plausible for each individual company. Working with her colleagues, Yarbrough and the Womble Carlyle team can provide a full range of legal services to a growing business. The deal can take a year to hammer out.
“I can tell my clients what is reasonable and what isn’t, and what to expect and what not to expect,” she said.
In order to serve her client well, and ultimately help bring all those jobs to the state, Yarbrough must understand the company – how it sells, ships, where its customers are located, and so on. She often travels to company headquarters or to its plant to learn the business.
The establishment in South Carolina of global automotive companies – BMW, Daimler and Volvo – and of aerospace giant Boeing, has opened the spigot to Yarbrough’s business. Automotive suppliers are clamoring to locate near their potential customers, and Boeing has raised the state’s profile. “I hear companies from Mumbai say that when they heard about BMW and Boeing locating in South Carolina, they thought South Carolina might be a good place to call home,” she said.
The upshot of Womble Carlyle’s legal work in the field of economic development is income for resident families.
Yarbrough represented one company that purchased a manufacturing plant in a small South Carolina city from a company that had failed, taking hundreds of jobs with it. At the announcement, former employees of the plant ringed the ceremony, resumes in hand. The owner told Yarbrough that they would be the first people he interviewed.
“There’s nothing better on the announcement date than hearing a company talk about adding 1,000 jobs for a community in South Carolina. Economic development is personal. It’s bringing jobs to South Carolina, and each new job supports a family.
Stephanie Yarbrough is a Partner at Womble Carlyle, where she practices in the areas of tax and economic development incentive matters. A former Director of Economic Development for the City of Charleston, she has extensive experience negotiating and structuring state and local incentives to facilitate investments by domestic and international companies in South Carolina. She works with corporate headquarters projects, manufacturing projects, data centers, warehouse/distribution centers and technology companies.
Yarbrough co-authors the Womble Carlyle Economic Development Digest , a firm blog on economic news.