Columbia Hits the Mark

Key Takeaways

  • Skilled labor trained in advanced manufacturing is a major factor in site selection.
  • The size of available facilities in the Columbia market and its central location gives companies a unique edge.

Skilled Labor Draws Investment

Workforce was rated number one on Area Development‘s list of “Top 10 Factors to Navigate the Location Maze”. A region’s available labor force, skill level and the cost to employ them are major factors considered by companies looking to relocate. Columbia has a strong labor force, hitting the mark on all aspects for new employers looking to relocate to the region. Columbia’s labor market is the best positioned in the state for available skilled labor and cost.

The Midlands industrial market is home to 1.5 million people, 685,000 of which make up the region’s labor force. The labor force unemployment rate was recorded at 6.2% by the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the end of 2015. The Midlands industrial market offers employers a larger workforce than the Upstate or Charleston markets and a larger pool of available skilled labor, with 42,000 people. This is 15.8% larger than the Upstate and more than double that of the Charleston market.

Training employees is a concern for employers, especially those in need of skilled laborers. Columbia is home to a network of five technical colleges: Midlands, Central Carolina, Orangeburg-Calhoun, Florence-Darlington and Aiken. All five are partnered with ReadySC and Apprenticeship Carolina, successful workforce training and development programs, ensuring companies in the region are well equipped with trained and skilled employees. In fiscal year 2015-2016, ReadySC trained 4,000 employees and served 78 companies in industries such as aerospace, automotive, biotech and textiles. 

Securing a location with a strong labor force is a challenge for some employers, while another is the cost of labor. In the Midlands industrial market, the cost to employ manufacturing staff is $998 per week, according to the Central South Carolina Alliance. This is 32.8% and 34.9% lower than the Greenville and Charleston markets, respectively, and 23.8% lower than the national average of $1,236 per week. South Carolina is also a right-to-work state with the second lowest unionization rate in the nation at 2.1%.

Large manufacturers such as Boeing, Volvo, BMW and Daimler are locating in the Upstate and Charleston industrial markets, diminishing the available labor force in those markets. Going forward, the labor market will play a key role in boosting Columbia’s business-friendly environment. Columbia continues to build its workforce. Columbia is currently the only market with the available, skilled labor force in South Carolina to support major manufacturers.

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