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EngenuitySC releases third annual Competitiveness Report results; Midlands Business Leadership Group makes big announcement

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin and USC President Dr. Harris Pastides Announce Results of EngenuitySC’s 2016 Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report; Midlands Business Leadership Group Makes Related Announcement


January 13, 2017 (COLUMBIA, S.C.): The Columbia metropolitan statistical area (MSA) is ranked higher than Greenville and Charleston MSAs and is tied with Raleigh in livability, according to EngenuitySC’s third annual Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report, announced today by the organization’s founding co-chairs Steve Benjamin, Mayor of Columbia, S.C. and Dr. Harris Pastides, President of the University of South Carolina. 

The Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report is a major annual initiative of EngenuitySC, an economic development nonprofit focused on enhancing our region’s competitiveness and prosperity.

The report analyzes economic competitiveness in the Columbia metropolitan statistical area (MSA), as compared with that of nine other metropolitan regions in the Southeast. The report measures success based on the five major indicators of economic competitiveness: talent, entrepreneurial/business environment, innovation, industry clusters and livability. The index for each indicator shows how the MSAs compare.

In the livability index, metrics including employment growth rate in arts, entertainment and recreation, cost of living, and vitality – the percentage of population ages 18-44 – push Columbia ahead of nearly all the comparative MSAs in the 2016 report.

The Columbia MSA analyzed for the report includes Richland, Lexington, Kershaw, Fairfield, Saluda and Calhoun counties. Nine other metropolitan areas were analyzed for comparison, including Raleigh, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina and Lexington, Kentucky.

Dr. Doug Woodward, Professor & Director of the Division of Research at USC’s Darla Moore School of Business, provided additional remarks at the event regarding the data in the report. Woodward’s team conducted the research and analyzed the data.

After the results were presented, the Midlands Business Leadership Group (MBLG), represented by David Pankau, president and CEO of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and Lou Kennedy, CEO and owner of Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation, announced a new, MBLG-led effort, connected to the report. MBLG, a coalition of more than 40 CEOs and executives from our region’s largest employers who regularly convene and work on issues that are important to the Midlands, will be using the Competitiveness Report as a road map to catalyze action through the formation of community working groups – mapped to the five areas of competitiveness.

“MBLG has a primary objective to accelerate the development of the Midlands as cool region that attracts and retains top talent, produces vibrant job offerings, and provides necessary resources to improve livability for all people,” said Pankau. “Remarkable things can happen when the private sector takes the lead in working collaboratively with local government and other organizational leaders. We are proud to play that role and excited about what the future holds for this region.”

This marks the third time that EngenuitySC’s Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report has been made public. It will be published as an insert in Columbia Regional Business Report and will begin arriving in homes Jan. 14 and in businesses Jan. 17, 2017.

“The importance of this report is really three-fold,” says Meghan Hickman, Executive Director of EngenuitySC. “First, it provides an annual gut-check as to where the region stands compared to our peer and aspirant regions. Secondly, it tells us where we’ve made progress and where we need to focus more resources. Lastly – and most importantly – it provides a road map to inform decision-making and catalyze action across the Midlands.”



EngenuitySC’s 2016 Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report


Overview of Results:


1. Talent                                                                                                                                                                  

Overall index rank: #8 of 10

Index value 87


Positive Trends

      The share of workers employed in knowledge-intensive occupations increased and is approaching the U.S. average, an indicator of the Columbia MSA’s growing knowledge economy

      Columbia remains strong in educational attainment, with 31.7% of the population holding a Bachelor’s degree or higher (higher than the U.S. average)

      The percentage of foreign-born population rose slightly, indicating a MSA attracting an increasingly diverse pool of talent

Negative Trends

      GDP per worker slipped for the second consecutive year and remains below the US average

      While the percentage of degrees awarded in STEM fields rose, it slipped below a fast-rising U.S. average

Magnifying Opportunities from the Competitiveness Report:

      Increase the number of private partnerships with local schools to leverage resources into focused opportunities for K-12 students to enhance career readiness and STE(A)M knowledge

      Support the development of apprenticeship, internship, and job shadow programs at the high school level to get students on an early track for success

      Increase state funding for 2-year and 4-year public universities to keep education affordable while providing the talent to supply local businesses and attract new companies

2. Entrepreneurial & Business Environment

Overall index rank: #7 of 10

Index value 88


Positive Trends

      Small business activity saw a substantial increase of 10.48 percentage points and is above the U.S. average, indicating a business environment conducive to small business growth

      Share of employment in professional and technical services increased for the second straight year, in line with similar gains in knowledge-intensive occupations

Negative Trends

      Proprietors’ share of income decreased slightly

Magnifying Opportunities from the Competitiveness Report:

      Include entrepreneurial concepts and training in curriculum throughout the educational pipeline

      Tout Columbia’s low startup costs to encourage local entrepreneurship

      Embrace economic development strategies combining outside industry recruitment with support for local businesses to bolster growth and retain talent

      Leverage the construction of the new USC/Columbia Technology Incubator into more opportunities for small businesses to develop and grow

      Work in coordination with the Center for Entrepreneurial Success and the Enterprise Campus at MTC to cultivate and prepare early-stage business ideas for introduction to the entrepreneurial ecosystem


3. Innovative Capacity

Overall index rank: #8 of 10

Index value 62


Positive Trends:

      A high percentage of residents (12%) hold a graduate or professional degree – higher than the U.S. average and an increase over last year

      Indicators of innovative work from higher education, the number of SBIR/STTR awards per 100,000 and R&D expenditures per 1,000 both increased over last year.

Negative Trends:

      Overall R&D funding awarded from all sources per 1,000 dropped from last year, though it remains above the U.S. average

      Employment diversity worsened ever-so-slightly from last year, but remains strong as the 2nd best of the MSAs compared

Magnifying Opportunities from the Competitiveness Report:

      Develop a culture of innovative thinking and creative talent development in existing industries of strength – like insurance technology, law and health care

      Support the growth of scaleable businesses and the commercialization of intellectual property from our research university through programs such as SC Launch, the SC Angel Network and Capital Angels

      Support innovative activity by utilizing resources like USC Office of Economic Engagement and the Faber Center, while also training small businesses to apply for SBIR/STTR awards and file for patents


4. Industry Clusters

Overall index rank: #7 of 10

Index value 125


Positive Trends:

      All indicators show the presence of strong industry clusters within a business environment highly conducive to cluster growth

      The Columbia MSA saw strong growth in employment per square mile, indicating economic development both in the city as well as in rural areas

      Concentration of jobs in high wage employment grew over previous data

Negative Trends:

      Employment diversity slipped slightly from last year, but remains strong as the 2nd best of the MSAs compared; this indicates a diverse economy across a variety of sectors

Magnifying Opportunities from the Competitiveness Report:

      Develop and market an environment attractive to national and global companies to strengthen existing clusters

      Promote regional industrial sites in Richland, Lexington and the surrounding counties
Identify emerging clusters and develop strategies for collaboration, coordination and growth

      Have workforce solutions and support “on deck” for existing clusters to meet demands as needed

5. Livability

Overall index rank: Tied for #2 of 10

Index value 107


Positive Trends:

      The region shows the highest growth rate in the share of employment in arts, entertainment and recreation among its peer MSAs, which speaks to a thriving and expanding cultural scene

      The share of population 18-40 years old is above the U.S. average and continues to rise, contributing to a young and vibrant culture

      The cost of living improved, making an already affordable area an even better place to live, work and play

Negative Trends:

      Volunteer rate slipped for the second consecutive year and continues to be lower than many peer regions

      The Columbia MSA again saw an increase in violent crime year-over-year

Magnifying Opportunities from the Competitiveness Report:

      Create greater awareness of the world-class recreational opportunities provided by Lake Murray, Congaree National Park and the Midlands’ rivers

      Develop and execute a shared vision for regional competitiveness through a collaborative and coordinated effort by local leaders

      Develop a shared marketing campaign that inspires local champions and promotes “cool” regional assets 

      Create a comprehensive plan for development of a Riverfront District and the 3 Rivers Greenway to better connect Richland and Lexington Counties


A full version of the report is available upon request.


New and current EngenuitySC board members include the following:


Steve Hall, Chair & Executive Committee – Ovation Partners, LLC

Councilman Paul Livingston, Chair-Elect & Executive Committee – Richland County Council

Dr. Keith Shah, Past Chair & Executive Committee – FTI Consulting

Mayor Steve Benjamin, Founding Co-Chair – The City of Columbia 

Dr. Harris Pastides, Founding Co-Chair – The University of South Carolina

Lee Bussell – Chernoff Newman

Councilman Todd Cullum – Lexington County Council

Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine – Columbia City Council

Bill & Lou Kennedy – Nephron Pharmaceuticals

Bill Kirkland – The University of South Carolina

Lasenta Lewis-Ellis – LLE Construction, LLC

John Lumpkin

Ted Nissen – First Community Bank

Mayor Elise Partin, City of Cayce

Dr. Ron Rhames, Midlands Technical College

Chairman Torrey Rush, Richland County Council


Keep up with EngenuitySC by following @EngenuitySC on Twitter or via Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/engenuitysc.

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