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Mayor Steve Benjamin announces EngenuitySC’s new Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report

Ranking our region’s economic competitiveness with comparable Southeast metros

Dec. 3, 2015 (COLUMBIA, S.C.): At a gathering of EngenuitySC board members and stakeholders on Dec. 3, 2015, founding co-chair Steve Benjamin, Mayor of Columbia, S.C. and chair Keith Shah, Assistant VP at BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, announced the release of EngenuitySC’s 2015 Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report.

The report analyzes economic competitiveness in the Greater Columbia area, as compared with that of nine other metropolitan regions in the Southeast. This is the second consecutive year the report has been published.

Additional remarks were given by Dr. Doug Woodward, Professor & Director of Division of Research at USC’s Darla Moore School of Business, and JoAnn Turnquist, President & CEO of Central Carolina Community Foundation.

The economic development organization’s report measures success based on the five major indicators of economic competitiveness: talent, entrepreneurial/business environment, innovation, industry clusters and livability.

The Columbia metropolitan statistical area 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.

“The journey toward competitiveness is all about progress, not perfection,” notes Meghan Hickman, Executive Director of EngenuitySC. “In this second edition of the report, we’re finally able to see where we’ve improved – or, in a few cases, fallen behind. The good news is that our region’s story is still unfolding, and our community is a world-class competitor in the making.”

EngenuitySC is a public-private partnership focused on enhancing economic competitiveness and prosperity in the Midlands.

2015 marks the second time the report has been made public. It will be published as an insert in Columbia Regional Business Reportand will arrive in homes Dec. 7 and in businesses Dec. 9, 2015.



EngenuitySC’s 2015 Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report


Overview of Results:


  1. Talent                                                                                                                                                                  

Overall index rank: Tied for #5 of 10

Index value 96; no change from 2014


Positive Trends
Increase of the percentage of foreign-born talent
Increase in STEM degrees awarded
Continue to be strong in educational attainment, with 8.4% of population with an Associate’s degree and 30.7% with a Bachelor’s degree or higher (higher than the US average and an improvement over last year’s data)
Negative Trends
Employment in STEM occupations is below the US average and decreased slightly to 18.27% from 19.04%
GDP per worker slipped from last year
What can we focus on to move the needle?

  • Increase state funding for public two- and four-year higher education institutions to help mitigate cost for students and increase graduates to meet the demands of business
  • Support regional opportunities, like Cradle to Career, that will establish data-driven benchmarks and provide accountable oversight
  • Increase participation in programs like Youth Apprenticeship and ApprenticeshipSC
  • Emphasize STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) and soft skills in regional K-12 programs


  1. Entrepreneurial & Business Environment

Overall index rank: #7 of 10

Index value 88; no change from 2014


Positive Trends

Proprietorship is strong, as indicated by an increase in percentage of income generated by business ownership
Share of employment in professional and technical services increased

Negative Trends

Small business activity has decreased slightly from last year’s data

What can we focus on to move the needle?

Tell the unique Midlands story: strong small-business culture, regional “cool-factor”, easy to do business
Support local business retention and expansion efforts
Create more fundable, scalable, growth-oriented companies in the Midlands
Generate an excitement for investing in next generation of business opportunities
Capitalize on new, vibrant spaces under construction for some of the region’s incubators and co-work spaces, using them as a tool to recruit and retain top talent



  1. Innovative Capacity

Overall index rank: #7 of 10

Index value 74; 2 point improvement from 2014


Positive Trends:

Utility patents have increased and the Columbia MSA’s growth rate for patents is higher than the U.S. average
Have a high percentage of population (11.5%) with a graduate or professional degree and that percentage has increased year-over-year

Negative Trends:

R&D expenditures decreased from last year’s data

What can we focus on to move the needle?

Encourage spin-off companies with innovations discovered through local R&D
Maximize programs – such as SCRA Technology Ventures and Capital Angels – that help fund companies
Get on track to increase private and federal higher education R&D funding
Encourage and train more innovative small businesses to apply for SBIR and STTR funding



  1. Industry Clusters

Overall index rank: #7 of 10

Index value 120; no change from 2014


Positive Trends:

  • Employment per square mile is nearly triple the US average and has increased, indicating a climate conducive to clusters

Negative Trends:

  • Share of employment in clusters has slipped from last year’s data
  • Growth rate in traded clusters fell slightly (from .43% to .39%), but is still above the U.S. average

What can we focus on to move the needle?

Work in partnership with the SC Council on Competitiveness to identify opportunities with the fastest growing clusters in our region
Take advantage of clustering opportunities in aerospace and analytics with new regional partners, Boeing and IBM
Economic development organizations should work collaboratively to recruit globally impactful technology and IT firm headquarters
Create a streamlined solution to quickly meet the workforce needs of companies interested in relocating



  1. Livability

Overall index rank: #5 of 9

Index value 104; 3 point decrease from 2014



Positive Trends:

The region has a strong growth rate in its arts, entertainment and recreation employment, indicating an increase in entertainment and recreation offerings
Nearly 40% of the population is 18-40 years old, contributing to a young and vibrant culture
Though no change from last year, the cost of living is below the national average and competitive with many peer regions

Negative Trends:

Volunteer rate has slipped (from 25.3% to 24%) and continues to be lower than many peer regions
The Columbia MSA has seen an increase in violent crimes; from 417 occurrences per 100,000 inhabitants to 578 (2013 data compared to 2012 data in last year’s report)
Average commute time has ticked up to 23.3 minutes (from 22.7 minutes)

What can we focus on to move the needle?

Develop a shared Midlands vision for improving regional competitiveness and collaboration between Chambers, nonprofits and economic development entities
Increase philanthropic giving through programs like Midlands Gives, presented by Central Carolina Community Foundation
Support growth in arts and entertainment through better promotion of regional assets
Encourage regional employers to incentivize and promote volunteerism
Support municipal and county efforts to combat gang and gun violence


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


About EngenuitySC

Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., EngenuitySC is an economic development nonprofit focused on enhancing our region’s competitiveness and prosperity. In partnership with business, government, education and community leaders, EngenuitySC specializes in regional collaboration and project management, the activation of local industry clusters and regional research, analysis and marketing.  For more information, visit http://www.engenuitysc.com/.


Media Contact: Tracie Broom, Flock and Rally, 415.235.5718, tracie@flockandrally.com

Direct Contact: Kristin Hamilton, EngenuitySC, 803-354-5720, KHamilton@engenuitysc.com

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