Exclusive: South Carolina Earns Kudos for Manufacturing, Creating Jobs, Attracting Millennials

Richard Breen

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019

It’s vacation season in South Carolina, and while a lot of businesspeople have placed an “out of office” response on their email, the Palmetto State is still being productive when it comes to national rankings.

Three different sources recently put South Carolina or Columbia in their top 10 in different areas of economic development and workforce.

The Site Selection Group consulting firm placed South Carolina No. 2 in its Best States for Manufacturing ranking. Columbia was No. 4 in SmartAsset’s ranking, Where Millennials are Moving. CNBC slotted the Palmetto State tenth on a list of “best places in America to land your dream job.”

“It never hurts to get a good ranking,” said Jeff Ruble, economic development director for Richland County.

The Site Selection Group placed Georgia No. 1. Utah, Tennessee and North Carolina followed South Carolina.

“A company’s ability to hire and retain a qualified workforce, as well as its ability to receive and ship goods in a cost-effective and timely manner are typically the most influential factors that drive final site selection decisions,” said the firm’s Josh Bays in the report.

Claire Gibbons, global marketing and communications director with the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, said the high ranking came as no surprise.

“South Carolina offers the competitive advantages advanced manufacturers need to succeed in a global economy: a ready and able workforce, flexible and adaptable training programs, integrated infrastructure including the deepwater Port of Charleston, and a business-friendly climate,” she said.

The S.C. Department of Commerce recently announced two new manufacturers were coming to Charleston County. LAB Medical Manufacturing Inc. said it would invest $5 million and create 30 jobs over the next five years, while Smithey Ironware Co. plans to invest $2 million and create 22 jobs.

The S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce reported that a record number of South Carolinians are working – 2.29 million as of June. The CNBC ranking helps explain why.

The television network placed the Palmetto State No. 10 in the nation in year-over-year job growth. Nevada was No. 1.

“These states offer you the best chances to land the job you are looking for,” CNBC’s Scott Cohn said of the top 10.

SmartAsset reports that millennials are among those flocking to the state capital. The financial technology company used U.S. Census Bureau data to rank Columbia fourth among people age 20-34 for net migration (number of people moving in compared to moving out).

Charlotte was No. 6.

“That shows the I-77 corridor is really suited for millennial-type employers,” said James Gilbert, economic development director in Lancaster County.

Gilbert pointed to Red Ventures, the tech firm with a growing campus in Indian Land.

“I’m not surprised at all,” he said. “It’s a good sign.”

Dallas, Texas, topped the list.

“Only three of the cities on this year’s top 10 were also in the top 10 of our 2018 study,” said Ben Geier in the report. Columbia was part of that trio, along with Norfolk, Virginia (No. 5 this year), and Seattle, Washington (No. 2).

Columbia’s net positive migration was 6,554, which made up 4.95% of the city’s population. SmartAsset said that was the highest percentage of any of the 173 cities it studied.

Charlotte had an increase of 5,060 millennials.

“Creating a community where people want to move and want to live is at the forefront of economic development,” Ruble said. “More and more companies are gravitating to places where they can recruit and attract talent.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 12,571 business applications in South Carolina during the second quarter of 2019, up from 12,496 in the second quarter of 2018 and the highest count since the recession.