Governor Henry McMaster issued a proclamation declaring the week of October 5-9 as South Carolina Manufacturing Week. The goal of the proclamation is to recognize the impact manufacturing has had on the state. Manufacturing accounts for 16.8% of South Carolina’s gross domestic product and employs 12% of the workforce (approximately 239,500 South Carolinians). There are more than 5,000 manufacturing businesses in the state, and in 2016 those businesses accounted for 97% ($30.7 billion) of the state’s exported goods. Over the last 10 years, S.C.’s manufacturing employment growth has averaged over 18%.
Manufacturing has played a large part in South Carolina’s history. In the 1930s, North and South Carolina housed the two largest textile industries in the United States. By the early 21st century, global competition forced many textile factories to close and manufacturing within the state to change. Today, S.C.’s manufacturing industry holds much more diversity, including motor vehicles, chemicals, machinery, electrical equipment, food and beverage products, medical equipment, paper, electronic products and aerospace parts. Manufacturing makes up three of South Carolina’s top four industries, including aerospace, automotive, and advanced manufacturing (agribusiness takes second place).
Amid COVID-19, manufacturers have shifted toolsets to help combat the disease. Manufacturers making boat covers realized the spandex-like material could be sewn into comfortable face masks. Garment manufacturers switched to PPE production. Automotive manufacturing leveraged their expertise in custom metal fabrication to create intubation boxes. In addition to producing needed medical equipment, many companies have donated their pandemic-related products.
Manufacturing in S.C. continues to surge forward, and opportunities abound in 2021. Boeing has chosen South Carolina for 787 jetliner production. Leisure Pools and Spas North America also chose South Carolina for fiberglass pools and water feature manufacturing. ClickFold Plastics is opening a new plant in Indian Land, and DMA Holdings is opening a new auto parts manufacturing plant in Marion County.
The Center for Business and Economic Research evaluated manufacturing industry health in each U.S. state, granting “report cards” with grades A-F. South Carolina was granted an A score when measuring income earned by manufacturing employees, wage premium paid to manufacturing works and manufacturing employment per capita. S.C. also received an A grade in global reach and a B in sector diversification.
Be Pro Be Proud is a workforce development project aimed at reducing the skill shortage gap of manufacturing and related professions within South Carolina. Over 24% of skilled employees are at or near retirement age, and 82% of employers report a moderate or serious shortage in skilled production workers. However, with workshops and spokespersons generating interest in students and non-student career seekers, South Carolina’s manufacturing industry can remain strong for years to come.