South Carolina: Riding a Wave of Prosperity

01 May, 2016

An update from Nelson Lindsay, Director of Global Business Development

South Carolina is riding a wave of momentum. 2015 was a great year in economic development for the state, but it is still actively working to bring in more jobs and investment. Last year brought major announcements including Mercedes Benz Vans, Volvo Cars, Dollar Tree and Red Ventures. No other state can boast that it is home to three premier automotive companies like BMW, Mercedes and Volvo. South Carolina has worked hard for this success and has a tremendous team that has put the infrastructure in place to support business. Doing business with South Carolina means a seamless experience, where Team South Carolina works to help businesses expand or locate. From the state to the region to the county level, South Carolina prides itself on business outcomes, expedience at the point of sale and efficiency.

In South Carolina, workforce development is about getting it just right—the right skills for jobs, at the right time.

Local workers are loyal and stay with companies for a long time. The state’s fast-growing labor force has consistently outpaced national growth levels. There have been several reasons why workers have turned to South Carolina for their future. South Carolina is consistently ranked nationally for its talented and skilled workforce and workforce development programs. Its benefits are:

  • One of the lowest unionization rates in the United States;
  • One of the lowest work stoppage rates in the United States with minimal working time lost due to strikes in manufacturing and non-manufacturing industries combined; and
  • Third Leading Work Force Development Programs in the United States (Area Development, 2015).

South Carolina is bringing manufacturing back and making way for a solid middle class with thriving communities able to hire new generations of talented people—from Continental Tire, Bridgestone, Michelin, BMW, Mercedes Benz Vans and, newly announced, Volvo Cars.

With nearly 9,680 jobs announced and $3.6 billion in investments made in the manufacturing sector since in 2015, a majority of which are new plant announcements or expansions of existing industry, the largest announcements in 2015 were in the manufacturing sector.

In the midst of a challenging economy and during an election year, when many businesses were apprehensive about hiring and expanding, South Carolina still proved it was a state of business and open for business. Traditionally, South Carolina manufacturing industry has been textile-based. However, in the past decade, the state’s manufacturing economic engine has shifted to advanced manufacturing plants like Boeing, Michelin, Continental and Sensor Technologies.

South Carolina is the tire capitol of the nation. From rail to roads, South Carolina is ready to support logistics and distribution of these new tires and the products that go into making them. From 2010-2015, South Carolina trained 5,000 people across three different tire company cultures (Germany, France and Japan) to be tire manufacturers.

South Carolina has a history of supporting internationally based, high-brand companies like BMW and Michelin. These companies have built “world plants” in our state to support their manufacturing to be exported to destinations around the world. South Carolina has increased the international focus and pipeline of international projects. Foreign-affiliated firms have been important contributors to growth, representing more than 37 percent of jobs announced and nearly 56 percent of capital investment in 2015. That growth supports our strategy to have a South Carolina presence in Munich, Germany; Shanghai, China; and Tokyo, Japan. South Carolina earned several accolades by economic development publications in 2015, including a Gold Shovel award by Area Development Magazine. The same publication also named South Carolina the No. 3 state on its annual Top States for Doing Business survey. Additionally, for the third time in four years, IBM-Plant Location International ranked South Carolina first in attracting jobs through foreign investment, per capita.

Side Note 1


The Greenville area saw significant growth at the end of 2015 and is truly taking off in 2016 with the announcement that Lockheed Martin plans to assemble the T-50A Trainer at the SC-TAC there. The 2015 fourth quarter wins for the area include a $100 million expansion of Mitsubishi Polyester Film; Magna Decostar’s $50 million expansion, which is creating 153 new jobs; and Bausch & Lomb’s expansion ($30 million and 36 jobs); and Scan Source’s office expansion that added another 100 jobs.

Side Note 2


Oconee County is the “geography of opportunity” in upstate South Carolina. Located in the northwestern corner of the state along the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Oconee County is known for its strategic location along the Interstate 85 corridor between Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina, with close proximity to Clemson University.

Oconee is a vibrant county of more than 76,000 residents who take pride in their work and participate in the betterment of their community. Manufacturing is the county’s largest employment sector. In all, around 25 percent of the local workforce is employed by one of the 60 industries that call Oconee home. The various industries represented in Oconee County are creating products as diverse as plastic wrap for food producers and battery cases and engine valves for automotive suppliers.

Since 2012, Oconee County has announced more than 900 manufacturing-related jobs and $205 million of invested capital. Last year, a record year for the area, Oconee County had six major announcements that brought 426 jobs and $53 million in capital investment to the county. “It was a record year for Oconee County, and I feel like we’re just getting started,” said Richard Blackwell, Executive Director of the Oconee Economic Alliance. “A lot of good things are in store for Oconee County.”

The 2015 projects included:

  • ITech South LLC added 34 jobs, 36,000 additional square feet of space and invested $6.03 million
  • ITT Corp. invested $2.5 million (over the next five years) to expand its existing operations and added a $1 million testing facility
  • BorgWarner Inc. invested $13.3 million to expand its existing operation and added 50 jobs
  • Casto Development announced a 300,000-square-foot mixed-use development – a $30-40 million investment expected to add 300-400 jobs
  • CRM Global Manufacturing invested $500,000 in a new location and added 10 jobs
  • US Building Innovations Inc. invested $1.02 million and added 31 new jobs

Most recently, in March 2016, Baxter Enterprises and Hi-Tech Mold & Engineering, companies owned by the Schulte family and full-service suppliers for the plastics industry, are establishing operations in Oconee County. The firms are investing $20.7 million in the project, creating 87 new jobs over the next five years.


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