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Charleston Business

It's Up to Us

By David Dykes

It’s a difficult time across the nation, and South Carolina is no exception.

We’re divided by politics, race and ideology.

So it’s up to us.

It’s up to us to deal with those things that contribute to inequality in South Carolina, that hinder our progress, that are blemishes on all we have to offer.

It’s up to us because more people are seeking opportunity here.

Bobby Hitt, South Carolina’s commerce secretary, noted in a recent commerce communication that South Carolina was the second most popular state to move to during 2020, according to a new study by United Van Lines.

The report, which tracks the company’s data for customers’ 2020 state-to-state migration patterns, shows S.C. had the second-highest percentage of inbound migration (64 percent) among states experiencing more than 250 moves.

What they find is South Carolina tied with Texas in fourth place in Site Selection magazine’s 2020 business climate rankings. But among corporate executives and site selectors, South Carolina tied with North Carolina for second place.  

Site selectors’ most important criteria were workforce skills, workforce development, transportation infrastructure, ease of permitting and regulatory procedures, state and local taxes, right-to-work state, utilities (cost and reliability), quality of life, incentives and legal climate (tort reform).  

They also find South Carolina is one of the top 10 states in the nation for manufacturing output as a percentage of GDP, according to Business Facilities magazine. In addition, South Carolina ranked third among states for foreign-trade zone activity in terms of exports.

And they find Charleston ranks highly – No. 5 – among cities for the ease of doing business for small- and medium-sized businesses, according to Arizona State University’s Doing Business North America report.

The ranking was composed of scores of six categories included in the report, which measures the scale and scope of business regulations in 130 cities across 92 states, provinces and federal districts of the U.S., Canada and Mexico. 

All across the state good things are happening. But significant challenges remain.

South Carolina needs to close the urban-rural divide that creates communities of haves and have-nots. Urban areas prosper and tend to dominate the state’s economy. Rural regions are struggling to keep up.

Last year, we reported the state had targeted 555 areas with no or slow internet access. The 555 areas had 182,294 households, representing 10 percent of the state’s families. 

Some of the targeted areas were identified as priority areas because of a prevalence of low-income families and school-age population. 

In this pandemic era, and at a time of more remote learning, that can hinder education, which is critical to the state’s future. 

Small businesses, meanwhile, remain at the center of the storm.

Small business confidence declined in December, according to Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities. Much of the decline stemmed from weakening outlooks for business conditions and sales in 2021, Vitner said.

Business owners are concerned that stringent operating restrictions and weakening consumer spending will persist through at least the first half of this year, he said.

So let’s get to work. Let’s promote and support small businesses.

But let’s also listen to those we disagree with. Let’s promote equality, take a stand against racial injustice and prejudice, embrace diversity and aim to be more inclusive. 

It’s time to make a difference.

As our talent pool continues to grow, S.C.’s workforce and business development initiatives are more important than ever, Hitt says. 

Those, he says, play a vital role in securing our state’s reputation as a competitive place to do business.

So will our insistence on change.