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Manufacturing in South Carolina: A Glance at Current and Future Trends

March 13, 2015

The manufacturing industry continues to be one of the United States’ strongest growing and prolific job markets, with the industry supporting an estimated 17.6 million jobs in the United States, according to the most recent data from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). Also noted in the report was manufacturers’ contribution of over $2 trillion to the economy, having risen each year since 2009. The manufacturing industry also results in the highest multiplier effect in the economic sector, with $1.37 added to the economy for every $1 spent in manufacturing. With impressive results like these, it’s no surprise that the manufacturing industry is the core focus of many states throughout the country, especially in those equipped and dedicated to driving continued industry success.

The Upstate region is home to over 1,400 manufacturers which account for more than 96,000 jobs in the area, representing 17% of the region’s labor force. Upstate South Carolina’s competitive cost of doing business, low unionization rate and highly skilled work force, all act as valuable factors that place the region at the forefront of the manufacturing industry in the United States.

As manufacturing continues to grow throughout the country and in the state of South Carolina, organizations like the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance (SCMA) have continued to support and advocate for the industry. As the only statewide organization exclusively dedicated to serving the interests of manufacturers, SCMA has been elevating the quality of life for all South Carolinians by advancing the state’s manufacturing industry for the last century.

To gain a better understanding of both the current and future state of South Carolina’s manufacturing industry, we spoke with SCMA’s President and CEO, Lewis Gossett.

(Lewis Gossett, President & CEO, South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance)

What key factors do you think make South Carolina successful in the manufacturing sector?

“There are numerous factors that make South Carolina the ideal state for manufacturing. Logistics is a major part of successful manufacturing, and South Carolina has the capacity and infrastructure to be a major player that can meet both existing and future needs. We also have strong interstate systems, competitive power and tax rates, and of course, a low unionization rate. South Carolina’s dedication to workforce training is also second to none.”

“Beyond the continued success of South Carolina’s manufacturing industry and its economic development, there’s also a unique quality of life that can’t be over looked. The Upstate region of South Carolina has fantastic schools, great cultural opportunities and wonderful recreational activities and events. South Carolina is home to a special heritage that makes it very attractive for those looking to locate manufacturing facilities in an area that is also great place to raise a family.”

In 2014, over two-thirds of the companies that announced expansions in the Upstate were manufacturers. Why do you think the region had so much growth?

“We’ve been fortunate that the Upstate of South Carolina has continued to experience growth even at times when other regions have not.  The Upstate is home to a major corridor of commerce along I-85, the least unionized major metropolitan area in America as well as an array of technical colleges that produce an outstanding skilled work force.

“The Upstate’s pro-business approach and ‘can-do’ attitude is also unwavering. Public and private leadership in the Upstate makes things happen and functions as a team better than almost any other area that I’m aware of.”

How is South Carolina working to fill the ever-growing need of manufacturers for highly-skilled workers?

“A skilled workforce is the single greatest need of manufacturing today. Our state has always met that need, and I firmly believe we will continue to do so. The Upstate has some of the best training programs of any competitive state, region, or country and the technical colleges continue to produce highly-skilled, trained workers.  Governor Haley and the General Assembly are moving aggressively to bolster their support with the technical college system by finding additional programs that will permit manufacturers find the workforce that they need.”

“Our middle and high schools are making great progress with the development of GATE programs and with increased emphasis on STEM education, robotics, and other technical course offerings. Our next challenge will be to continue to educate our children and their parents about the wonderful opportunities in manufacturing in a way that piques their interest so that they will see manufacturing careers as an exciting possibility for their future.”

What improvements are being made to help with infrastructure in SC?

“First, let’s look at port expansion in Charleston. The Navy base project is proceeding, and with its completion at some point in the future, we will see additional capacity to handle an increase in trade through those facilities. Governor Haley and the General Assembly have ensured that we will have adequate funding to deepen our river channel to over 50 feet as we prepare for an influx of post PANAMAX ships.”

“We have already seen some widening projects on our interstates, and with the increased attention to an interest in infrastructure funding in the General Assembly and the Governor’s office, we are confident that additional capacity will occur consistently over the next 10 to 20 years. Most significantly, though, in the Upstate is the presence of the new inland port facility. Port operations have moved 200 miles inland which allows the Upstate of South Carolina to become a gateway to the rest of the country for movement of raw materials and finished goods.”

What’s in store for the manufacturing industry in 2015?

“2015 is already proving to be a banner year for the state of South Carolina. Governor Haley and Secretary Hitt are working at a feverish pace, and the results speak for themselves. I really believe that if South Carolina continues to make progress towards meeting workforce needs, the sky’s the limit. We will continue to be one of the focal points, if not the focal point, in this country for re-shoring and for growth in all manufacturing sectors, but I’m especially excited about success in textiles, chemicals, automotive, advanced materials, and aerospace.”

For more information on doing business in Upstate South Carolina, contact our business recruitment team.

TOPICS: Manufacturing, Upstate Thoughts