South Carolina life sciences is surging across the state, experts say see more
When describing today’s South Carolina’s life sciences industry, words like "surging" and “booming” are often mentioned.
Life sciences is diverse, with seven sectors: drugs and pharmaceuticals; medical devices and equipment; digital health solutions; research, medical and testing laboratories; bioscience distribution; bio-agriculture and ecosystem support.
Surprisingly, life sciences are South Carolina’s fastest-growing industry -- not more expected industries like automotive, tires, or aerospace, notes Erin Ford, Interim CEO of SCBIO -- a nonprofit dedicated to building, advancing and growing life sciences here.
“A 2017 study by USC's Moore School of Business showed 402 life science companies in South Carolina – that’s grown to over 700 today. It employed over 43,000 South Carolinians and generated $12 billion in impact,” said Ms. Ford.
Life sciences among segments leading SC growth see more
When Commerce Secretary Harry Lightsey saw his first iPhone, he was seeing one of the first in the world. In 2007, it was one of only two.
At the time, he was the Southeast president of AT&T, in a room among the company’s top leadership.
When all eyes were on the company chairman, he reached into the pocket of his suit.
“He pulled out this object that none of us recognized and said, ‘This is one of two existing iPhones in the world. The other one is held by Stephen Jobs, and I’ve got this one. This device has convinced me that it is going to change the world, but I have no idea how it’s going to change the world, but I’m convinced it’s going to change the world,’” Lightsey recounted at Upstate SC Alliance’s midyear meeting, held at the Crowne Plaza Greenville Wednesday.
How today’s developments will mold the business landscape as we know it is yet to be seen, he said.
No one knows.
But, Lightsey assured the crowd of alliance investors, it’s shifting in the direction of ever-growing mobility, communications and biotech capabilities. And it’s shifting fast.
It’s South Carolina’s job to keep up and stay ahead, he said during one of his first public appearances in the Upstate since he took the secretary’s post.
“I do know this, that we have to be ready for change,” he said. “We have to be ready for the opportunities that the change is going to present to us. We shouldn’t view change as a threat or a concern, but as certainly something we can capitalize on.”
Much of the afternoon meeting focused on economic development victories of the past year within the life sciences, tech or R&D realms: a few vignettes from the 22 companies that moved to or expanded in the 10 counties in 2021 with Upstate SC Alliance’s assistance.
Upstate SC Alliance projects Pozyx, a Belgian information technology firm, and Oshkosh Defense’s manufacturing facility for the next generation mail truck held the spotlight, alongside BMW’s electrification efforts and Upstate biotech companies Zylo Therapeutics, Chartspan and Epica International.
Upstate SC Alliance’s announcements for the year thus far have prompted the creation of an expected 3,963 jobs and $930 million total investment.
“When many areas saw contractions in service, South Carolina’s manufacturing sector actually grew last year,” John Lummus, CEO and president of Upstate SC Alliance, said during the meeting. “And manufacturing and its need for engineering, technology and creative solutions will continue to drive our growth strategy moving forward. That’s why you’re seeing a stronger focus on innovation as a complement to our business recruitment program.”
He added that on the economic development announcement front, so far, 2021 has brought in three times the capital investment and twice the number of created jobs as 2019, especially in sectors bolstering enhanced mobility and health care services.
According to the group’s midyear report, the largest number of projects in the pipeline are in the engineered materials (263), automotive and transport (238), industrial manufacturing (155), life sciences (146) and aerospace and defense (144) fields. The first half of 2021 prompted 23 requests for information on economic development opportunities in the Upstate.
Domestic companies — 414 contacts to be exact — are the most likely, judging by the number of active contacts, to make the move to the Upstate in the months ahead.
International supply chains and travel may have been hampered by COVID-19 restrictions, but it didn’t completely derail progress, especially with the virtual playing field provided by a tectonic shift to Zoom conference rooms and continued in-person visits from leaders like Belgium’s Consul General in Atlanta, Michael Gerebtzoff.
The majority — almost 60% — of the companies that expanded in or moved to the area throughout 2021 were foreign-owned businesses: Deutsche Post DHL’s subsidiary DHL Supply Chain, Sweden’s Frauenthal Gnotec, Ireland’s E+I Engineering USA and China’s Gissing North America, just to name a few.
Looking forward, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Spain, China, France, India, Belgium and Italy respectively are the hottest international sources for Upstate economic development prospects based off the number of active contacts.
“We have a lot of strengths and inherent advantages just because of who we are and where are,” Lightsey said. “But one of our main strengths is that we are a small state and we understand what it means to work together as a team. Commerce is a state agency that has supported the alliances’ growth and maturation of the alliances across the state, and the Upstate Alliance has certainly led the way, is something that’s incredible strength for our state: the ability to be able to work together for both our existing businesses, as well as those businesses that are looking to be partners with our state.”
Workforce a focus for Upstate South Carolina initiative see more
UPSTATE, S.C., APRIL 17, 2019 — Upstate industries have invested more than $20 billion and announced nearly 63,000 new jobs in the last 13 years.
To help Upstate employers sustain their economic momentum, the Upstate SC Alliance launched a regional talent attraction initiative at its 2019 Annual Meeting, with nearly 500 business leaders in attendance.
The initiative, “Move Up” includes a brand and website, MoveUpstateSC.com, which promote job opportunities and quality of life across the 10-county Upstate region.
“Workforce has quickly become a top factor as companies consider whether to locate or expand in our region,” said John Lummus, Upstate SC Alliance President & CEO. “Our region has the right ingredients not only to meet business needs, but also to provide fulfilling careers and a rich lifestyle. Move Up is here to help employers and our communities tell that story.”
Upstate employers can use MoveUpstateSC.com while recruiting candidates in a variety of professional fields, including: manufacturing + engineering; financial services; information + communications technology; education; life sciences + healthcare; architecture, construction + engineering; and creative services.
The Upstate SC Alliance worked with Development Counsellors International (DCI) to create the Move Up brand and website, with support from the Anderson Area Chamber of Commerce, the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce and Ten at the Top.
Target audiences include established professionals in multiple industries and college students looking to launch their careers.
The website includes interactive community profiles, facts and stats about Upstate living, an overview of industries, and a job board.
In addition to the resource being a tool for Upstate employers, it will be supported by a digital marketing campaign.
South Carolina Named Top 3 in Best States for Business see more
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.