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Business recruitment trends point to healthy SC economy

by Bobby Hitt, state Secretary of Commerce

The old adage, "the only constant is change," is especially true in economic development. Twenty years ago, South Carolina was primarily a textile state. Today, we are at the forefront of the nation’s advanced manufacturing industry as a leader in producing quality planes, cars, tires and much more.

As a state, we’re always evolving to compete for new business. The fact that we’re a small state with a compact government means that we can be flexible and nimble in addressing the needs of new and existing companies alike. With that in mind, we have been seeing some positive trends behind our state’s recruitment efforts, demonstrating that our state is rising to meet the changing needs of business.

As a state, we’re always evolving to compete for new business. The fact that we’re a small state with a compact government means that we can be flexible and nimble in addressing the needs of new and existing companies alike. With that in mind, we have been seeing some positive trends behind our state’s recruitment efforts, demonstrating that our state is rising to meet the changing needs of business.

One trend is an influx of new companies. While a typical recruitment mix is around 70 percent expansions and 30 percent new businesses locating to the state, South Carolina is seeing a mix that is much more evenly split. In fact, new companies committing to locate to the state comprised more than half of both new investment and new jobs recruited in 2014. These new business locations are a major source of wealth creation in the state, and come at a time when existing industry continues to make major expansions.

Also impacting the state’s economy is the reshoring of manufacturing. Over the past two years, operations ranging from bicycle assembly to flat-screen TV production to textiles have found their way back to the United States—in South Carolina.

In 2013 alone, nearly $981 million in capital investment and 1,200 new jobs were announced by manufacturers bringing their operations to South Carolina from overseas. Driven by logistics needs, labor costs and quality, as well as Walmart’s Buy American program, companies are finding success in bringing manufacturing back stateside.

Another trend is industry diversity. While we continue to win in manufacturing—and lead the Southeast in manufacturing job growth—we’re seeing greater diversity in the projects we are closing. South Carolina is increasingly being sought for corporate headquarters and Class A office space.

For example, two corporations made major announcements last year to locate headquarters to Fort Mill’s Kingsley Park, infusing 5,400 new jobs into the town. In addition to these service-sector investments, South Carolina also is increasing its prominence in agribusiness and food processing, logistics, life sciences and innovation.

Startups, entrepreneurs, high-tech and high-growth companies have become a growing part of our state’s economy, which is why Commerce launched an Office of Innovation in late 2013. Numerous incubators and accelerators in cities and towns across the state drive this growth and contribute to our developing innovation ecosystem.

Through two rounds of grants, Commerce is supporting 30 programs across the state—from the North Dargan Innovation Center in Florence, to Columbia’s SOCO, to Greenville’s NEXT—to help them grow and expand their capabilities in launching successful startups. In turn, it is our hope that these high-growth companies will stay in the Palmetto State.

South Carolina is gaining momentum, and adding to its roster of world-class companies that call our state home. These recruitment trends point to the fact that South Carolina is building a healthy economy and a diverse business community with growing companies that support jobs and opportunities in cities, towns and communities across our great state.

Bobby Hitt is South Carolina’s Secretary of Commerce. He was appointed by Gov. Nikki Haley and has served in this role since January 2011.