In this election season, the phrase “voting with their feet” seems to be apropos for South Carolina, which is adding people as quickly as it can create jobs for them.
The U.S. Census Bureau recently released population growth data for cities and counties. Several communities in South Carolina were among the leaders:
- Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach was the No. 2 metro area in the nation, with a 3.5 percent population growth rate between July 2014 and July 2015. The Villages, Florida, was No. 1.
- Hilton Head-Bluffton-Beaufort ranked 12th in growth rate.
- Charleston-North Charleston ranked 19th in growth rate.
- Charlotte, which includes the Rock Hill area, ranked 17th in total number of people added, with 47,186.
Among the counties with the nation’s fastest growth rates between July 2014 and July 2015, Horry ranked 21st, Lancaster was No. 34, Jasper was No. 52 and Dorchester was 67th. When the county timetable was shifted to growth between April 2010 and July 2015, Horry was 36th, Berkeley was No. 41, Jasper was No. 65 and Lancaster ranked 70th.
All this population growth is coming at a time when South Carolina is producing a record number of jobs. There were more than 2.16 million people employed in February, according to the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.
More than 60,000 jobs were added in the Palmetto State between February 2015-16. The industrial sectors with the most job creation during that period were trade/transportation/utilities, education/health services and professional/business services.
The counties that grew their labor force the most during that period were Charleston (5,427 people), Greenville (5,285) and Spartanburg (4,026).
Workforce development and advanced manufacturing remain among the top economic development priorities of the nation’s governors, according to a recent report.
The National Governors Association updated a 2013 study to identify economic development best practices across the country. In the original study, governors saw advanced manufacturing, commercializing university research, helping businesses expand internationally, public-private partnerships in workforce development, and regionalism as key trends – items the report describes as “the building blocks of their economies.”
This time, the word from governors’ offices was that progress had been made in areas such as:
- Workforce development strategies that link the private sector, K-12 education system and higher education
- Moving applied research to market
- Coordination between advanced manufacturing, higher education and the federal government
- Fostering economic development in distressed areas
When it comes to workforce development, “states are enhancing the connections all along the pipeline from early education to college and career training and, ultimately, jobs, through educational campaigns, alignment of programs, sector-based training and education, and work-based learning such as apprenticeships,” according to the report.
Citing their long-term growth prospects, states have expanded the definition of advanced manufacturing to “advanced industries,” including STEM-related services and the energy sector, according to the report. It says states also continue to specifically support manufacturing, particularly through collaboration with the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
A new study from the International Trade Administration looks at foreign direct investment’s impact on U.S. job creation – and additional data shows South Carolina plays a leading role.
The study attributes 12 million jobs nationwide to foreign direct investment. Of that number, 6.1 million people were directly employed by foreign companies operating in the U.S.
“The economic impact of this foreign investment goes beyond the direct jobs,” the study states. “International companies help drive American innovation, connect American communities with the world, and bring new techniques to improve productivity.”
The total impact includes 2.4 million jobs in supply and distribution chains, as well as another 3.5 million “attributable to productivity growth in manufacturing associated with FDI.”
The study mentions research and development operations at companies such a Michelin, a French tire-maker whose North American headquarters is in South Carolina. It also mentions export activities by companies such as Honda, a Japanese firm that manufactures all-terrain vehicles in the Palmetto State.
The study sites a 2015 ITA report on state-by-state job creation linked to exports. In that study, South Carolina had the 14th most jobs linked to manufactured goods exports, at 148,000.
South Carolina added 42,000 jobs connected to overall goods exports between 2009-14, which ranked eighth nationally, according to that study.
South Carolina maintains a reputation as a low-tax state, and there is data to prove it.
The Tax Foundation recently released a series of facts and figures that rank the states based on various tax-related measures. The Palmetto State ranked among the leaders in several categories:
- Fourth lowest combined state and local tax collections per capita
- Sixth lowest state tax collections per capita
- Seventh lowest property taxes in terms of owner-occupied home values
- Eighth lowest corporate income tax collections per capita
- Ninth lowest state and local tax burden per capita
- Eleventh lowest combined state and local general sales tax collections per capita
- Eleventh lowest state revenue (taxes, fees, licenses, intergovernmental revenue) per capita
- Fifteenth lowest state and local income tax collections per capita
Finally, South Carolina is eighth best in the U.S. when it comes to Tax Freedom Day. The Tax Foundation explains Tax Freedom Day as “how long into the year Americans work before they have earned enough money to pay all federal, state, and local taxes for the year.”
Louisiana (April 2) ranks first, while New Jersey and Connecticut are tied for last (May 13).
If U.S. companies are going to grow in 2016, they’re going to do it domestically. That is the gist of a recent survey of chief financial officers conducted by the Deliotte professional services firm.
“CFOs indicate a push toward higher investment in North American markets with little additional focus on Europe or China,” the report stated.
The survey tallied responses from 112 CFOs. Fifty-five percent described North American conditions as good, compared to 59 percent in the previous quarter.
“Only 27 percent of surveyed CFOs said improvement in North America’s economy is dependent on improvement in China’s,” the report stated. “Moreover, nearly 60 percent said China is not an important market for their company.”
Despite concerns over the stock market, federal funds rate, foreign economies and presidential election, there are reasons for executives to see resilience in the U.S. economy. In a December speech in Columbia, Wells Fargo economist Jay Bryson pointed out sectors such as construction, education and health care.
“Could the rest of the world pull us down?” Bryson asked. “For all the talk of globalization, the U.S. economy doesn’t have a whole lot of ties to the rest of the world.”
Manufacturing is more exposed to globalization trends, however. In the Deloitte survey, manufacturing CFOs said they expected to do little domestic hiring in 2016 and 89 percent said they were focused on becoming more efficient.
When it comes to foreign direct investment, South Carolina has been declared the national champ.
South Carolina attracts the highest number of foreign expansion projects and interstate investments on a per capita basis, according to the news service fDi Intelligence.
Indiana finished second, North Carolina third and California fourth in the inaugural championship rankings. Data was collected by fDi between September 2014 and August 2015.
Expansions by Techtronic Industries in Anderson County and ZF Friedrichshafen in Laurens County, which combined for more than $100 million in capital investment and more than 750 announced new jobs, were mentioned specifically by fDi.
International commerce has long played a prominent role in South Carolina. In calendar 2015, 56 percent of announced capital investment and 37 percent of announced new jobs were tied to companies headquartered in foreign countries, according to the S.C. Department of Commerce.
The state also set a record in 2015 for total export sales for the sixth straight year, with $30.9 billion in sales. Commerce reported that the Palmetto State’s sales increased by 4.2 percent in 2015, fifth-best in the nation. Increases in sales of aircraft helped to pace the growth.
South Carolina led the nation with $9.8 billion in export sales of completed passenger motor vehicles. The state also leads in exports of tires, ball and roller bearings, and lawn mowers, according to Commerce.
Technology is on the minds of job creators in 2016.
“U.S. CEOs continue to invest in technology as the most direct path to meaningful innovation and operational efficiency,” professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers writes in its annual survey of chief executives.
There are concerns, too. The rapid pace of technological change is something 78 percent of U.S. CEOs are either somewhat or extremely concerned about. Cyber threats are a somewhat or extreme concern of 88 percent of respondents.
Tech is also reflective in the 65 percent of U.S. CEOs who are changing their leadership development efforts.
“The next generation of business leaders will have to be comfortable with many new technologies,” PwC wrote.
In South Carolina, efforts are being made to cultivate the next generation of tech-minded executives and entrepreneurs. A 2015 report by The Pew Charitable Trusts highlights Charleston among several smaller U.S. cities.
“Cities and states across the country are trying to promote entrepreneurship, especially in technology,” reads the report. “With dreams of becoming the next Silicon Valley — or at least something like it — they are providing money and expertise to startups and clustering tech companies in millennial-friendly neighborhoods.”
The article mentions several Lowcountry organizations, including the Interdisciplinary Center for Applied Technology program at the College of Charleston, which was founded through assistance from the S.C. Department of Commerce.
Recently, the Milken Institute pointed out that the high-tech sector in the Charleston-North Charleston metro area has grown 16 percent faster than the national average over the past five years.
Inc. magazine echoes the Pew report with an article that says small towns can attract and retain Silicon-Valley-level talent through proximity to research universities, reasonable real estate prices and “livability.”