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Columbia Business Monthly

Aerospace continues to be the state’s economic rock star

Jan 08, 2019 11:03AM ● By Kathleen Maris
By Richard Breen

South Carolina manufacturing is strong, but within that sector there’s an even bigger standout.

“We consider aerospace to be a rock-star cluster,” says Susie Shannon, president and chief executive of the S.C. Council on Competitiveness.

The organization recently updated its economic data on the aerospace cluster in South Carolina, which in the Palmetto State includes everything from the Boeing assembly plant in North Charleston to Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter to the Lockheed Martin facility in Greenville. It found that aerospace adds $14.1 billion to the state’s GDP.

Jody Bryson, president and chief executive of the S.C. Technology and Aviation Center in Greenville, said more economic development organizations around the state are targeting aerospace prospects, which should keep new jobs and investment flowing. SC-TAC is home to Lockheed Martin and more than 100 other aerospace and manufacturing tenants.

“When the economy’s good, more people are flying, more businesses are flying, and more air cargo is moving,” Bryson says. “All of those things paint a rosy future for aerospace in our state.”

Adrianne Beasley, director of aerospace initiatives for the S.C. Council on Competitiveness, says the cluster is growing at a faster rate than can simply be accounted for by the addition of new companies.

“The data is showing that aerospace firms that are established in the state are growing and thriving,” Beasley says. “It’s very important to notice how the companies are doing once they’re here.”

She says the 2019 outlook indicates across-the-board growth. Aerospace jobs have grown by 13 percent since 2010 and the Upstate actually has a greater share of private aerospace companies than the Lowcountry.

“This is not just a Charleston phenomenon,” says Joey Von Nessen, a research economist at the University of South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business. “It goes beyond Charleston and it goes beyond Boeing.”
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