The impact of manufacturing on South Carolina’s economy is being celebrated today and all through the month of October.
National and state leaders, community members, students from three Midlands schools, teachers and representatives from the manufacturing sector gathered at the Nephron Nitrile plant in West Columbia to celebrate National Manufacturing Day, observed this year on Oct. 7. The national observance is meant to honor manufacturers and also promote the growing importance of the sector to daily life and well-being of all Americans.
The impact of manufacturing in South Carolina is documented in a 2021 economic impact study from SC Future Makers, a nonprofit education and workforce organization affiliated with the S.C. Manufacturers Alliance. The study found that manufacturing’s annual economic impact in the state is between $194 billion and $206 billion, and 16% of the state’s GDP is associated with manufacturing. Since 2017, the state has announced more than 45,000 new jobs and $16 billion in manufacturing capital investments.
Other findings show that manufacturing supports 30% of all jobs statewide either directly or indirectly and pays an annual salary 33% higher than the state’s average wage.
The aerospace, automotive and tire sectors and their extended supply chains dominate S.C. manufacturing, and all three experienced growth at a collective rate of more than three times the state average over the past decade, the study found.
“We’re proud of the impact manufacturing has in South Carolina,” said Sara Hazzard, president and CEO of the SCMA. “The industry drives innovation, creates economic prosperity and fosters community engagement that benefits all citizens.”
The Manufacturing Day event at Nephron Nitrile offered students the chance to get a hands-on experience of working in manufacturing through the second visit of the Creators Wanted workforce development exhibition, a touring exhibit sponsored by the National Association of Manufacturers and its education partner The Manufacturing Institute.
The exhibit is a specially designed RV with interactive exhibits that teams of students use to solve a series of problems similar to what manufacturing workers might have to deal with on a daily basis.
U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn attended the event and spoke to attendees about the national manufacturing boom and resulting efforts to boost industry.
“We’re doing what we can in Washington to keep the private sector strong, and we also need to do what we can to prepare a future for these young people we have with us here today,” Clyburn said. “I’d also ask the young people to consider manufacturing as a career and to realize that we all need each other. Whatever you decide to do, do your part and work to be the best you can be in that career.”
Officials said about 700 students at 16 S.C. schools visited the exhibit this year. Students from Airport High School in West Columbia, Lower Richland High School in Columbia, Seven Oaks Elementary in Columbia and schools from Orangeburg County visited the exhibit on Friday.
Speakers at the event cited statistics that show the importance of getting more young people interested in manufacturing as a career. Carolyn Lee, president and CEO of The Manufacturing Institute, said that even though manufacturing employs more people than it has since 2008, studies show that there are currently 800,000 open jobs in manufacturing statewide, and four million additional manufacturing jobs will be needed by the end of the decade.
Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Institute of Manufacturers, said the key to getting students more interested in manufacturing is to help them realize that the field not only pays well but also involves rewarding work.
“Being a creator means producing things that not only help people and change lives but can change human history,” Timmons said.
Earlier this week, Gov. Henry McMaster issued a proclamation declaring October as South Carolina Manufacturing Month.
He made the announcement Oct. 5 alongside the leadership of the S.C. Manufacturers Alliance and the S.C. Manufacturing Extension Partnership at the Anderson-Oconee-Pickens Business and Industry Showcase, according to a news release.
“Manufacturing is at the heart of what makes South Carolina a great place to work and live,” McMaster said. “This incredible industry has been a driving force for prosperity throughout our state and will continue to be a pillar of economy for generations to come.”
The purpose of Manufacturing Month is to raise awareness of the achievements and opportunities the industry provides statewide and around the nation, the release said.