South Carolina has another opportunity to promote its economic development prowess thanks to a magazine’s business climate rankings.
The Palmetto State tied for third with North Carolina in Chief Executive’s 2018 “Best and Worst States for Business.” Texas was No. 1, followed by Florida. Indiana was fifth.
“A high ranking like this is a great tool that drives industrial prospects to consider South Carolina and our region for new investment and jobs,” says Will Williams, president and chief executive of the Economic Development Partnership, which serves Aiken, Edgefield, McCormick and Saluda counties.
It was a slight improvement for the Palmetto State, which finished fourth in 2017. Economic development officials say there’s value in “best” lists.
“We certainly use these types of rankings in our marketing to differentiate ourselves from other states and regions,” says John Lummus, president and chief executive of the Upstate SC Alliance, which serves a 10-county region. “I feel that these rankings are important not only because they shine a light on the positive, but also often show where improvements may need to be considered.”
This latest ranking, which is based on a survey of CEOs, is in its 14th year. Publications devoted to business and/or economic development produce various types of state-by-state rankings throughout the year.
“The Palmetto State consistently scores near the top due to a number of factors, such as low unionization rates, strong cooperation between government and business, low-cost utilities, established transportation and infrastructure, competitive wage rates, and availability of a talented workforce,” Lummus says.
South Carolina ranked 10th overall in the Chief Executive rankings in 2015, fifth in 2014 and eighth in 2013.
“This doesn’t just happen by accident,” says David Ginn, president and chief executive of the Charleston Regional Development Alliance. “The S.C. Department of Commerce is one of the best-performing economic development teams in the country.”
Texas, Florida and North Carolina have been one-two-three for each of the past four years. Texas has been No. 1 all 14 years of the ranking’s existence.
“The difference between the top five states is negligible, roughly within the statistical margin of error,” says John O’Toole, executive director of the Beaufort County Economic Development Corp.
Meanwhile, California anchored the bottom of the list at No. 50 for the seventh consecutive year. The seven lowest-ranked states were all the same as in 2017.
The magazine speculated that the reputations, leadership and governing philosophies in the top and bottom states don’t change much, while states in the middle of the rankings move up and down in response to those factors.
“Our legislature has provided us tools to be competitive and our state and local permitting agencies understand the importance of keeping it simple,” Williams says. “Our collective economic development team has an enviable global reputation for delivering projects, both big and small, on time. And our focus on existing industry success demonstrates we take good care of you once you get here.”
This year, the magazine noted that South Carolina was a right-to-work state and cited the South Carolina Innovation Plan, an initiative to support the advanced manufacturing, life sciences, biotech and computer software sectors.
“In our targeted industries – aerospace, agribusiness, automotive, manufacturing and technology industries – we can compete with any state or nation,” O’Toole says.
There were three subcategories used in the ranking: taxation/regulation, workforce quality and living environment. South Carolina ranked 10th, 14th and seventh in those three categories, respectively.
Living environment is a selling point for O’Toole.
“To punctuate our value proposition, at the end of the day you can be in Hilton Head, Beaufort, Bluffton or Port Royal,” he says. “What could be finer?”
The Charleston area also makes many “best” lists related to quality of life and tourism.
“National rankings make great headlines so we use them to grab attention and reinforce our strengths as a globally attractive location for business and talent,” Ginn says.