2015 Regional Report: The Southeast

Volvo chose a site in Berkeley County for its first North American factory in July, thrilling local officials and business leaders with plans to invest up to $500 million in a 100,000-vehicle a year production facility. The plant will employ up to 2,000 people when production ramps up in 2018.

The news is the cherry on top of the state’s 2015 economic-development sundae. Doug Woodward and Joseph Von Nessen, economists in the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business, predict blue skies ahead. “If you liked 2014, you’ll like 2015,” Von Nessen quips.

“If you liked South Carolina’s 2014, you’ll like 2015.”

A closer look reveals some storm clouds. Job creation is shifting from manufacturing toward lower-paying leisure and hospitality and employment services, including temp companies. Real income growth in the Palmetto State consistently lags the national average.

The Tax Foundation ranks South Carolina’s tax burden 9th lowest and ranks its business tax climate 37th. South Carolina spends over $896 million per year on incentive programs. Officials are particularly strong in aligning incentive programs around a company’s actual needs, says DBO’s Stringer.

iStock_000009730123_SmallGeorgia’s vaunted economic engine sputtered a bit this year. The Peach State is slated to add 71,000 jobs in 2015, down from last year’s 81,100, according to Georgia State’s Economic Forecasting Center. The Center notes that fewer than a quarter of the new jobs pay at least $60,000.

The state’s increasingly export-oriented economy has been hammered by market slowdowns in Asia, Europe and Latin America, but benefits from a resurgent construction market, including two new sports stadiums. Technology, entertainment (particularly film production) and biotech are growing, and manufacturing shows signs of rebounding. Georgia’s aggressive incentive programs helped bring Mercedes’ North American headquarters to Sandy Springs, leveraging an incentive package estimated at up to $50 million for about 800 jobs, but a few months later lost Volvo to South Carolina.

Focusing on infrastructure, legislators passed closely brokered bills to improve the transportation infrastructure and public transportation, raising gas taxes to pay $900 million for road,
bridge construction and repair and mass transit programs.

The Tax Foundation ranks Georgia’s tax burden 16th lowest and ranks its business tax climate 36th. Georgia spends over $1.4 billion per year on incentive programs.