At the Upstate SC Alliance 2017 Annual Meeting, the new governor of South Carolina, Henry McMaster, as well as leaders of the Upstate SC Alliance gave speeches to about 300 attendees about the business climate of the state. The event was an opportunity for Upstate South Carolina business people to get an overview of business growth in 2016 and to understand Upstate SC Alliance’s vision for the next five years.
Representatives for IVANNOVATION, an investor in the Upstate SC Alliance, were excited to attend this event.
Governer McMaster’s Speech
Governor McMaster, the successor to former Governor Nikki Haley, spoke of his past experiences fighting the drug trade as a U.S. Attorney and of his optimism for South Carolina’s continued growth in the future. It was a unique and rare opportunity for Greenville’s residents to get a first-hand account of the new governor’s vision for the years ahead and to learn his point of view on business-related policies.
In his speech he said his optimism was rooted in several characteristics of the state of South Carolina.
First, he believes that collaboration is a great strength of South Carolina. He said that those gathered in the room at the annual meeting could reach top leaders of business and government with only one telephone call.
Another advantage, he said, is the presence of the Port of Charleston along with the Greer Inland Port. Further, he said that the state looks forward to deepening the harbor at the Port of Charleston and building a second inland port at Dillon, South Carolina.
Another point he praised was a low tax environment in South Carolina that, he said, helps businesses thrive.
He also praised South Carolina’s technical colleges, which train workers to satisfy a growing demand for a technically savvy workforce.
Finally, he praised South Carolina’s status as a right-to-work state, saying he believes that the right-to-work policy encourages companies to invest there.
Upstate SC Alliance Leaders’ Speeches
After the governor’s speech, John Lummus, President and CEO of the Upstate SC Alliance, Aimee Redick, Director of Global Engagement at the Upstate SC Alliance, and Max Metcalf, Upstate SC Alliance Board Chairman, set forth the Alliance’s new mission statement, gave an overview of 2016, and explained the organization‘s strategic plan for the next 5 years.
The new mission statement is: “Firmly establish Upstate South Carolina as a unified and innovative economic region and position it to excel in the global economy through strategic marketing, collaboration and thought leadership.”
In the year-in-review segment of the meeting, they said that 2016 had been a prosperous year for South Carolina. Sixty-seven companies announced more than $1.8 billion in capital investment in the Upstate. These investments created almost 5,400 new jobs in the state.
Out of those 67 companies, 33 of them were new to the Upstate and created 3,858 new jobs. The remaining 34 companies were existing companies that expanded and created 1,538 new jobs.
They said that over the past five years the region had seen $10.67 billion of capital investment, which created 25,822 new jobs.
Export, they said, was extremely important for the Upstate. While the United States’ export share of GDP was 10.9% in 2015, the Upstate of South Carolina’s export share of GDP was 18.3%. In Laurens County, in particular, it made up a whopping 28.3%.
Finally, in the strategic plan segment of the meeting, the speakers named six disruptive trends to which the state must adapt and they set out the Upstate SC Alliance’s five strategies for the next five years.
Six Disruptive Trends
- Smaller and mid-sized companies are contributing to growth more than large companies.
- Manufacturing is increasing efficiency. However this means that fewer workers are required to produce the same output. In 1980 there were 25 jobs for every $1 million of output. Today there are only five jobs per $1 million of output.
- The Upstate of South Carolina has a lower rate of entrepreneurship than the country at large. On average 8% of companies in the United States are under one year old. In Greenville on the other hand, only 6.7% of companies are under one year old. For Spartanburg the number is only 5.7%.
- Top workers prefer to live in densely populated areas rather than in the suburbs.
- Globalization is growing, especially in the Upstate. Whereas in the United States as a whole, 5% of jobs are due to foreign investment, in the Spartanburg area that number is nearly up to 20%.
- There are a number of challenges hampering economic development in regions around the United States. These issues, such as workforce development and economic inclusion, still require research by and leadership from economic development organizations.
Five Strategies for the Next Five Years
- Lead regional marketing and business attraction. The Upstate SC Alliance will focus on high-value opportunities for the Upstate.
- Move up the manufacturing value chain. It will prepare the Upstate to capitalize on high-technology manufacturing and innovation.
- Engage intentionally in the global economy. The organization will continue to try to increase trade and attract foreign investment.
- Establish the Upstate SC Alliance as an economic thought leader. It will bring key economic information to the table for government decisions.
- Anchor efforts in robust research. It will continue to seek out the necessary data that the Upstate needs to develop its economy.
The Upstate SC Alliance 2017 Annual Meeting was an exciting opportunity to get the best business minds in the Upstate together in one room to review the prosperous year behind and to make plans for further growth in the next five years.