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Columbia Business Monthly

Monthly Musings on Small Business Liabilities, Mergers, Football

Feb 01, 2024 10:16AM ● By David Dykes

The Greenville Chamber released a statement just before the start of the state legislative session in January outlining its view, and reiterating that of other chambers and business organizations, concerning what many view as a liquor liability crisis. 

The statement said:

“The cost of liquor liability is putting tremendous pressure on the Upstate’s important tourism and hospitality sector. The skyrocketing costs of insurance – on top of the significant inflationary pressures already hurting small businesses – will have far-reaching effects on hundreds of small businesses if it is not corrected quickly.

“Every small business in South Carolina is one lawsuit away from going out of business because we have a system where a business might be 1 percent at fault but could he held 100 percent financially liable. Legislation that will solve both issues was filed last session by Senate President Alexander (S. 533) and supported by nearly every Republican leader in the state Senate. The message from businesses across the Upstate is clear: The General Assembly must act quickly in 2024 to address the unfair legal liability burden and the higher costs to business that have followed years of inaction.

“This issue has been a major agenda item for the Greenville Chamber and the Upstate Chamber Coalition for nearly a decade. Providing this relief to small business owners is at the top of our legislative agenda for 2024 and further delays in solving this issue will result in more business closures and an unnecessary drag on the Upstate’s economy.”

In an Integrated Media Publishing roundtable discussion in Columbia in December, Sara Hazzard, president and CEO of the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance, said she was “fairly optimistic” progress will be made in addressing the issue.

Said Hazzard: “When you read the newspapers right now, you're hearing about restaurants and bars that are going out of business. If they sell alcohol in South Carolina, they are seeing significant increases in their liquor liability policies, and some of them are not able to afford the policy premiums. That seems to be the thing that's getting the most attention. But I would tell you that this issue impacts every single business in the state of South Carolina, not just restaurants and bars. I think that this is a very important issue for the business community in the state.”

It’s an issue certainly worth watching.

Serving aviation, defense, rail industries

Liberty Hall Capital Partners, a Charleston, South Carolina-based private equity firm focused exclusively on investments in businesses serving the global aerospace, and defense industry, in January announced the merger of Comply365, LLC, an existing Liberty Hall portfolio company, and Vistair Limited to create a leading global provider of compliance, safety and data intelligence technologies serving the aviation, defense, and rail industries with over 120 customers located in over 30 countries on six continents. 

Terms of the transaction weren’t disclosed.

Liberty Hall officials said in connection with the merger, Insight Partners, a global software investor, has joined Liberty Hall as an equal investor in the combined business. Rob Morgan, current chief executive officer of Vistair, has been appointed chief executive officer of the combined company, and Tom Samuel, current chief executive officer of Comply365, has been appointed vice chairman of the combined company's board of directors and will lead the integration of the two businesses.  

"Rapidly accelerating digitalization within the aviation, defense and rail markets is driving demand for tailored, efficiency-centric software solutions, and Comply365 and Vistair have emerged as true industry leaders," Rowan Taylor, Liberty Hall's founding and managing partner, said in a statement. "Liberty Hall is pleased to have played a supportive role in Comply365's journey, and we look forward to continued success as Comply365 and Vistair come together to better serve their global customers."

Added Samuel, "This merger provides us significantly more resources to invest in our mission-critical solutions, better serve our global customers, and accelerate technology transformation across the aviation, defense and rail sectors. We have enjoyed our partnership with Liberty Hall over the last three years and look forward to their continued support as we build upon our successes and ensure our customers remain at the heart of everything we do."

Founded in 2007, Beloit, Wisconsin-based Comply365 provides SaaS-based, proprietary, mission-critical, enterprise content management solutions solving core pain points across the entire content management lifecycle, including authoring, compliance tracking, workflow management, and targeted document distribution. 

Comply365 represents Liberty Hall's second software as a service investment and the execution of the firm's investment thesis focused on the digitalization occurring within commercial aviation and rail, driving further adoption of digital-based processes and workflows. During Liberty Hall's ownership, Comply365 has achieved record financial performance and is the most widely used distribution and authoring platform in aviation and rail with over 80 customers globally, including over 30 customers signed in the last three years.   

Liberty Hall's principals have a 25-plus year history of working together and have led the investment of over $2.5 billion in equity capital in over 25 businesses serving multiple segments of the aerospace and defense industry. Liberty Hall was founded in July 2011 as the first private equity firm focused solely on investments in middle market businesses serving the aerospace and defense industry. 

2024 Housing Outlook

Greenville, South Carolina-based Lima One Capital unveiled its 2004 Housing Outlook in January, with the 26-page document predicting a more stable housing market than that of the previous 12 months.

“The 2023 Housing Market tested the patience of investors and homebuyers alike, as high interest rates and low inventory slowed the transaction rate significantly. But the market staved off the doom and gloom predictions of falling rents and declining home prices in most markets,” wrote Dameion Kennedy, Lima One’s in-house real estate research analyst. “The projections found in this outlook reflect a real estate market with slight improvements and more stability than last year.”

Lima One experts compiled numerous data sources analyzing topics from inflation to economic growth to home prices to property development to investment prospects to construction starts to create projections and analysis for what to expect in the housing market in 2024.

Insights in the Housing Outlook include:

·        Slow but steady economic growth: With inflation projected to fall below the 3.1 percent rate posted at the end of 2023 and unemployment projected to stay low at 4.4 percent, the overall economic environment for 2024 looks to be stable, providing a better atmosphere for homebuyers and real estate investors.

·        Home prices rising slowly: Why did home prices still rise in 2023 (up 2.2 percent) despite high interest rates? While demand has declined, so has supply, because many people are staying in their homes because they are locked into lower mortgage rates. These factors will persist to some degree in 2024, leading to an average projected home price growth of 1.1 percent.

·        Lower interest rates: After rising throughout 2023 and topping out at more than 8 percent, conventional mortgage rates dropped sharply in December 2023 after the Fed communicated no rate hikes during a favorable 2024 forecast on rates and inflation. With conventional interest rates projected to fall in the low-to-mid 6 percent range over the course of the year (and perhaps lower at times), homebuyers and investors will find more purchasing power that should increase overall transaction volume.

The Housing Outlook also specifically calls out the strength of single-family rental, the impact of the addition of more than 600,000 multi-family units to the market, and projected increases in single-family housing starts.

Since its inception in 2011, Lima One Capital has funded over $9 billion in loans for real estate investors who are building, improving, and stabilizing neighborhoods across the nation. 

Lima One’s core loan products are new construction loans for ground-up construction, in-fill, specs, and model homes; Fix and Flip, a 13-month bridge loan for investors who are buying, renovating, and selling properties; rental property and portfolio loans for purchasing or refinancing residential rental properties; and multifamily bridge lending for the purchase, rehab, or refinance of 5+ unit multifamily properties.

Favorite sports and sports teams

Not the New York Yankees? (My favorite!)

The Dallas Cowboys is America's most popular sports team, a new study has revealed.   

The research, conducted by iGaming expert reviewers Lucky Gambler, analyzed search volume data from Google Keyword Planner to determine which sports teams have been most searched-for in America in 2023. Teams were then ranked from highest to lowest based on their average monthly search volume across the country. The data also revealed which teams were the most searched-for in each state.   

In addition, the study also found that football is the most popular sport in the country, having amassed an average monthly search volume of 57,519,250. That figure is more than 21 million higher than the next most popular sport baseball (35,206,042). Basketball, ice hockey and soccer were the next three most popular sports.   

With an average monthly search volume of 7,189,167 in 2023, the Dallas Cowboys were the most popular sports team in America last year. The Cowboys were the most searched-for sports team in six different states, including Texas, where the franchise amassed 2,358,250 average monthly searches. The Cowboys are also understandably football’s most popular team.   

Miami Heat ranked second for the most popular sports teams in America in 2023, with an average monthly search volume of 4,257,750. The Heat were the most searched-for sports team in Florida (1,562,750). The franchise is also basketball’s most popular team, whilst basketball itself is the third most popular sport in the country behind baseball and football, with 32,901,458 average monthly searches over 2023.   

With more than 3.8 million (3,842,750) average monthly searches in 2023, the Buffalo Bills ranked third. The Bills were the most searched-for team in New York, amassing 1,142,250 of their average monthly searches in the state alone. The Bills are also the second most popular team in football in 2023, ranking behind the Dallas Cowboys.   

The Atlanta Braves are the fourth most popular team in America in 2023 after recording an average monthly search volume of 3,412,417. The Braves were the most searched-for team in three states last year, including in Georgia, where they amassed 1,275,000 of their searches. The Braves are also baseball’s most popular team nationwide.   

The Atlanta Braves were named the most supported team in South Carolina with average of 212,167 monthly online searches last year.

With more than 3.2million (3,221,917) average monthly searches in America in 2023, the Golden State Warriors are the country’s fifth most popular team. Steve Kerr’s outfit is also the most popular team in California (895,167) and the second most popular team in the NBA.