Trade Journal Hands South Carolina Silver Shovel for Economic Development

Richard Breen

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

South Carolina once again showed its prowess at landing big economic development projects, earning a Silver Shovel Award from Area Development, and its momentum doesn’t appear to be slowing.

The economic development trade journal gives out annual awards in gold and silver, based on a state’s ability to score significant capital investment or job creation. States are analyzed based on their 10 biggest projects of the year and then categorized by population.

Gold Shovel Awards went to Kentucky, Nevada, North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin. Seventeen Silver Shovel Awards were announced.

South Carolina was one of four states with populations between 5 million and 8 million to earn a Silver Shovel, along with Arizona, Indiana and Tennessee. South Carolina had previously competed against states in the 3 million-5 million category, but recently crossed the 5 million population threshold.

The Palmetto State earned silver in 2013, gold in 2014-16, and silver again last year. That consistency has a lot to do with cooperation between local and state economic developers and the private sector, according to Carter Smith, executive vice president of the Spartanburg Economic Futures Group.

“One of the primary things is that team approach,” Smith said. “That’s one of the strongest points we have in South Carolina.”

Smith said the state also does a good job of maintaining a steady stream of available sites and buildings for those looking to come here.

Area Development tallied projects underway (investments made, ground broken, or hiring started). The top project in South Carolina in 2017 was Volvo in Berkeley County ($620 million investment, 1,910 jobs). A $600 million, 1,000-job expansion by BMW in Spartanburg County was second.

“Beyond the assembly plants, there’s healthy growth among suppliers, too, ranging from Robert Bosch to BorgWarner to Gestamp,” Area Development pointed out in its report.

Smith described BMW as “the gift that keeps on giving.” The company, which first announced it was coming to South Carolina in 1992, expects to have 10,000 workers and a cumulative $8.6 billion in investment at its Spartanburg facility by 2021.

“They’ve definitely helped contribute to the area in many ways,” he said. “When we see growth at BMW, we see a ripple effect throughout the supplier network.”

Still, Area Development pointed out that “autos aren’t everything in South Carolina.” The magazine cited the Samsung washing machine plant in Newberry County, the Trane HVAC facility in Richland County, and the Arthrex medical device operation in Anderson County as examples of the state’s economic development diversity.

“We love diversification,” said Karlisa Parker Dean, economic development director in Chester County.

Roseburg Forest Products, a $200 million, 145-job project in Chester County, ranked No. 4 on the Area Development list for South Carolina. Dean said the state’s hands-on approach, emphasized by former Gov. Nikki Haley, is a key to success.

“We let people know we want them here and we’re very responsive to their needs,” Dean said.

The S.C. Department of Commerce said in 2017, the state accounted for economic development announcements worth $5.24 billion and responsible for 18,445 new jobs. That’s up from $3.4 billion in announced capital investment and approximately 13,100 announced jobs in 2016.

Smith said 2018 looks good too, with announcements in Spartanburg County that will create half a billion dollars in investment and approximately 2,000 jobs in the coming years.

“We’re off and running,” he said.