UNION — It’s many assets and the collaborative efforts to develop and market them has enabled South Carolina to attract more than $9 billion in economic development since 2011 according to the director of marketing and communications for the S.C. Department of Commerce.
Allison Skipper joined the Department of Commerce as its director of marketing and communications this fall. In this position she directs the department’s strategic communications imitative and serves as its spokeswoman.
It was in that capacity that Skipper addressed the Union Rotary Club Tuesday afternoon. During her address, Skipper discussed the successes in economic development South Carolina has experienced since 2011 and the factors that make that success possible.
Skipper pointed out that since Jan. 2011 SCDOC has announced 293 economic development projects. She said this included both new industries and the expansion of existing ones.
Those projects created a total of 39,524 jobs and generated $9.5 billion worth of investment in South Carolina.
Of those projects, Skipper said seven were in Union County. She said those projects brought more than 500 jobs and over $138 million in new investment to the county.
Skipper pointed out that its success over the past two years has made South Carolina a national leader in economic development. She said the state is outpacing the rest of the United States in manufacturing growth and has the fastest growing manufacturing Gross Domestic Product on the east coast. In 2012, Skipper said the state set a record with $25.3 billion in exports and is number one in the export of automobiles thanks to BMW and in tires thanks to Bridgestone, Michelin and, most recently, Continental Tire.
This growth has been fueled in large part by South Carolina’s success in recruiting companies from around the world. Skipper pointed out that more than 1,200 international companies are now located in South Carolina with international investment taking place in all of the state’s 46 counties.
Skipper said a number of factors have contributed to the state’s success including having the deepest port along the southeast and gulf coasts. She pointed out that the Port of Charleston is able to handle ships that are longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall. This is a major draw for businesses that use such ships for import and/or export purposes and makes the port a major asset in South Carolina’s efforts to recruit industry.
The fact that South Carolina is located halfway between New York and Miami is another factor in the state’s success. Skipper pointed out that within a 500-mile radius of the Upstate are approximately 100 million consumers that constitute an important market for South Carolina and the companies that do business here.
While these assets are impressive on their own, Skipper pointed out that they have been turned into effective recruitment tools by what she called the “collaborative relationships” between the SDOC and the various regional and local organizations in the state. She said that though it is a small state, South Carolina has been able to achieve the successes it has enjoyed in recent years because of the partnerships that have been developed between the SCDOC, county and municipal economic development offices, regional alliances, and other agencies. This has enabled the state to pool its resources to take the steps that have made it and its constituent communities attractive to investment.
Skipper said this collaborative effort has included investment in the upgrade and expansion of the state’s infrastructure. This includes the construction of a new terminal at the Port of Charleston and the development of the Inland Port in the Upstate.
Another area where collaboration has paid off and is continuing to pay off is in the development of a skilled workforce capable of meeting the demands of the industries of the 21st century.
Skipper pointed out that the manufacturers the state is attracting make extensive use of robotics and so a workforce capable of operating and maintaining such systems is what those industries are looking for when considering a community. She said South Carolina has to have such skills and training in the pipeline before companies will commit.
That pipeline has become a reality in South Carolina which Skipper said is “Work Ready” a status she said meant the state has a nationally ranked workforce training program in place. She said that many companies have already used this approach to match specific skills and an experienced workforce.
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