SC commerce secretary discusses where state could be poised for economic success in future

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Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 7:03 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina’s economic leader said the state faces increasingly tight competition among its neighbors to persuade companies to move here.

But he added hundreds of businesses are considering calling the Palmetto State home in the future.

So far this year, South Carolina Secretary of Commerce Harry Lightsey said the state has won 93 projects of companies relocating or expanding, which he said will bring around 5,000 jobs, around half of them in rural areas.

“We actually have over 500 active projects of companies that are looking to locate somewhere in South Carolina,” he said.

Lightsey told members of the Midlands business community at a Lexington Chamber & Visitors Center “Business Over Lunch” event Monday that his department is focusing right now on how it can keep that success going into the future.

He said that includes evaluating which parts of the state could be especially attractive to growing companies and restructuring the incentives the state offers to persuade them to move to South Carolina.

“We’re going to look really hard at our incentive structure and see what we can do to support businesses — may be businesses that are just getting started or can’t make huge amounts of capital investment or create thousands of jobs but can be meaningful to the state going forward,” Lightsey said.

While manufacturing has been a key component of South Carolina’s economy over the last several decades and continues to be, Lightsey said industries like health and life sciences are where they believe the state is poised for more growth, pointing to the success of companies like West Columbia-based pharmaceutical manufacturer Nephron Pharmaceuticals.

“South Carolina has great assets in that area, and I think we can be very successful,” he said. “Just over the last few years, the fastest-growing sector in the South Carolina economy, and so we’ve had success and we intend to build on that.”

Looking to the future, Lightsey said he wants to continue developing project sites by installing infrastructure including utilities, saying when companies are thinking about relocating to South Carolina, one of the main factors under their consideration is how quickly they can get operations up and running.

The commerce secretary said he would also like to see the state and its businesses focus more on keeping graduates of South Carolina’s colleges and universities in South Carolina after they graduate.

“They don’t have to leave this state in order to work in the technology sector or to do exciting genetic research or to do work at the cutting edge of the aerospace industry or the automobile industry,” he said. “All of those types of jobs are available right here in South Carolina.”

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