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Columbia Business Monthly

The Business Narrative: Inflation Remains Top Concern

Jul 10, 2024 09:26AM ● By Donna Walker

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Modest Improvement in Small Business Optimism

Small business sentiment remains sour amid a downshift in economic momentum, according to Wells Fargo economists Charlie Dougherty and Jackie Benson.  


The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index improved in June to 90.5. Although the index has risen for three consecutive months now, high uncertainty and poor economic outlooks have cemented the index below its 50-year average of 98, the economists said.


They said retreating labor demand, weak sales growth and high interest rates all weighed on optimism in June, buts added receding price pressures was one silver lining of the report.


However, inflation remained the top problem facing small businesses as the path back to 2 percent is slow going, the economists said.


Other observations in their report:


* The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index perked up from 90.5 in May to 91.5 in June. After three consecutive improvements, the index is now sitting at its highest level this year.


* That said, small business sentiment is lukewarm at best. Small business owners hold generally poor views on the outlook for expansion, which has not budged over the past four months.


Although the outlook for general business conditions posted a notable improvement in June, the index remains in firmly negative territory at -25 percent.


* Uncertainty regarding the economic outlook and presidential election also continue to weigh heavy on smaller firms. The uncertainty index fell back slightly in June but is still hovering at its highest level in three years.


* Inflation remains the top problem facing small business owners. However, price pressures appear to be gradually abating through the monthly noise. The percentage of firms posting price hikes ticked up slightly in June but remained below its year-ago reading.


* Plans to raise prices also continue to steadily trend lower. A net 26 percent of small businesses expected to raise prices over the next three months, the lowest share since April 2023.


* Small business labor demand continues to moderate, echoing softer employment data in recent months. A net 37 percent of firms reported job openings they could not fill in June, tied for its weakest reading since early 2021.

Hiring plans were unchanged over the month but continue to gradually head lower.


* As labor market conditions soften, compensation pressures are no longer building to the same extent they once were. The portion of firms raising compensation has moved sideways over the past four months and has not significantly changed over the past year.


* Evidence of weakening demand was also evident in sales trends. The net percent of owners reporting greater sales over the past few months has declined on a year-over-year basis every month this year.


* Meanwhile, high financing costs are weighing business fixed investment. Realized capital expenditures dipped to its lowest reading since August 2022 while the share of firms planning new investment is stuck below the prevailing rate before the pandemic.


NFIB State Director Ben Homeyer said the latest NFIB Small Business Optimism Index highlights inflation’s impact on South Carolina’s small, independent businesses.

“Prices keep going up, and that hurts Main Street businesses and their customers,” Homeyer said.


Homeyer added, “Small business owners are spending more for everything from merchandise to wages, and that leads to higher prices for their consumers and clients. Small business owners want certainty, but there’s no way of knowing how long things can continue this way.” 

Greenville Arena District Embarks on $170 Million Master Plan

The Greenville Arena District, owner and operator of Bon Secours Wellness Arena, said architecture firms LS3P, LMN, and Gensler Sports have been awarded the contract for master planning services for the 15,500-seat sports and entertainment arena.


Initial plans, as shared at the Greenville County Finance Committee Monday night, call for spending $170 million.


The GAD is also in the process of re-imagining the district as the gateway into the city of Greenville, South Carolina, and selected LMN to oversee  the urban design of the arena’s surrounding campus. 


The design teams will engage the local Upstate community for input throughout the planning process, which is anticipated to take about six months. 


Officials said the vision for the master plan will include significant improvements to and an expansion of Bon Secours Wellness Arena to ensure its long-term success and growth in the competitive southeastern region. 


Master planning services for the GAD campus will aim to transform it into a distinct destination, the officials said.


The newly imagined campus will embody a unique sense of place that will establish the area as a vibrant neighborhood, as well as a hub for live entertainment, music, and culture, all while keeping sustainability at the forefront, the officials said. 


Said Beth Paul, general manager of Bon Secours Wellness Arena: “We have selected a world class team to help deliver our vision for the future of the arena."


She added, "Our mission is to enhance every aspect of the arena — from  the surrounding campus and the building itself to the fan and client experiences, sustainability, programming,  and security. By doing this, we hope to attract premier talent and set the stage for unforgettable memories.”


LS3P of Greenville, South Carolina, will oversee the project and market study in partnership with industry leading design and architecture firm, Gensler. 


Alongside Gensler, LS3P has overseen numerous projects such as Clemson University’s Littlejohn Arena and Raleigh’s PNC Arena upcoming renovations.  


Gensler’s portfolio covers a range of properties including the Moody Center in Austin, Texas; Los Angeles’ Arena; Milwaukee’s Deer District; Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium; and New York’s Citi Field.  


“Redefining the future of Bon Secours Wellness Arena and its connection to the city of Greenville is an incredibly exciting opportunity at an incredibly exciting time,” said Greg Brown, senior project designer at Gensler. “Our team is committed to delivering transformative solutions for both the venue and the city.” 


“Our team is  ready to begin providing guidance for our hometown arena’s next chapter, ultimately positioning it for  continued success in an increasingly competitive regional market,” said LS3P Greenville Officer Leader John Edwards. 


“We look forward to inviting the public into the planning process, seeking their feedback  and ideas to guarantee that the community's voice shapes the project's development,” Paul said. 


She added, “We are committed to  creating a distinct destination that embodies a unique sense of place — a hub where individuals come together to enjoy, unwind, and create shared memories. Integral to this vision is fostering a seamless connection with Downtown Greenville, celebrating the distinctive essence and historical significance of The Well and reinforcing its role as a cornerstone of our community's identity.” 


The Post and Courier reported County Council’s finance committee voted 5-0 to give initial approval July 8 to the Greenville Arena District’s issuance of $70 million in general obligation bonds, and full council approval is needed. 


The county's role is simply to authorize the bonds, which would be the sole obligation of the arena district, the newspaper reported.


It said the bonds would be repaid over 20 years by a long-standing tax levied within the Greenville Arena District.


Bon Secours Wellness Arena hosts approximately 130 commercial/ticketed events each year, plus an additional 75-100 community/non-profit events annually, making it one of the busiest buildings of its size.


Pollstar Magazine, a leading concerts and live entertainment industry trade publication, recently released its 2024 mid-year reports where the venue ranked No. 13 among American arenas and No. 25 worldwide for ticket sales. 


Since its opening in 1998, the arena has played host to more than 12 million fans, has created more than 500 full-time jobs, and injected well over $70 million into the Greenville metro area annually.


The Greenville Arena District is a special purpose district created by the General Assembly of South Carolina in 1940.


Governed by a board of trustees appointed by the governor, the District manages its facilities to provide educational, cultural, athletic, and convention center services. 

Portside Technology Expands Charleston County Operations

Portside Technology, an information technology (IT) services company, announced it is expanding its Charleston County operations.


The company’s continued local investments, partnered with its historical and continued merger and acquisitions strategy, will create 89 jobs, according to Gov. Henry McMaster’s office.


Founded in Charleston in 2020, Portside Technology provides professional IT services and technology infrastructure to small and midsize businesses in the Charleston area and beyond.


The company offers a holistic approach to technology solutions with services ranging from design and procurement to installation and ongoing support.

Portside Technology recently expanded into two large office spaces across the second and fifth floors in the Charleston Tech Center, 997 Morrison Drive, Charleston.

Operations are online. Those interested in joining Portside Technology should email [email protected].

Signet Real Estate Group Announces Construction of MODA Clemson

Signet Real Estate Group announced the closing of financing for MODA Clemson, its new 159-unit housing development near Clemson University.


Located on College Avenue, just blocks away from downtown Clemson and walking distance to Clemson's campus, the five-story mixed-use facility will feature ground floor retail, a mix of studio, 1, 2, & 3-bedroom units, and the latest in modern amenities to serve the growing demands of the market.


Project partners, include First National Bank of Pennsylvania, Kimley-Horn, Coursey Architects, HPA Design Group, and Freese Johnson & Catamount Constructors.


Signet has also partnered with Pintail Real Estate for all retail leasing and brokerage.


Officials say construction is underway and will be completed in the summer of 2026.

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