Best & Worst States for Business Regional Report: The Southeast

While the Southeast is sometimes overlooked in national conversations about economic development, it is a powerhouse of manufacturing economic growth, home to two of the country’s fastest-growing state economies and lures investment with a low cost of living and engaged workers.

#3 NORTH CAROLINA: A Growing Base for Educated Talent
The rapidly growing state of North Carolina now has more than 10 million residents and is the ninth most populous state in the U.S. Chris Chung, CEO of the state’s Economic Development Partnership, says many workers relocating there have a bachelor’s degree. Well-respected universities such as Duke and UNC Chapel-Hill contribute to the strong talent base. “It has become a virtuous cycle. They’re coming here for jobs and economic opportunity. And the growing talent pool is attracting companies,” Chung says. Credit Suisse announced in May 2017 that it would invest $70 million and add another 1,200 jobs to its Raleigh operations. Many of these jobs were being relocated from New York City and other areas to help reduce costs. In March 2016, Novo Nordisk broke ground on a $1.8 million diabetes medicine production facility in Clayton. And in April 2017, smart grid company Trilliant

*Ranking in the 2017 Chief Executive Best & Worst States for Business (ChiefExecutive. net/2017-Best-Worst-States) announced a new headquarters in Raleigh. CEO Andrew White said the Research Triangle offers “some of the brightest and most innovative talent for a high-tech company like us.” Yet the benefits of North Carolina’s growth also present challenges. Chung says planners are considering how the social infrastructure, transportation and educational system can support the population growth. “I don’t think it’s uncommon to any state that has seen the same degree of growth, but it’s a big issue,” Chung says.

#4 SOUTH CAROLINA: A Bright Future for Manufacturing
According to the Census Bureau, South Carolina is now one of the fastest-growing states in the nation. And it’s attracting not only people but corporate investments. The South Carolina Department of Commerce says the state recruited more than $3.4 billion in capital investment in 2016, much of it in the manufacturing sector. BMW announced in June it would invest $600 million in its Spartanburg facility to grow the site’s total workforce to 9,000 and annual production to 450,000 vehicles. Samsung also announced its intent to open a $380 million plant in Newberry County.

Greenville is now one of the top 10 fastest-growing cities in the country. Yet Kay Maxwell, vice president of the Southern Regional Development Alliance, says the growth in population, manufacturing and activity at the ports is also spurring more development in rural areas of the state. She says there has been strong growth in the food processing sector and in logistics and distribution plants. In order to address the surges in volume at the ports of Savannah and Charleston, South Carolina and Georgia are joining forces on a Jasper Ocean Terminal, a new 1,500-acre container port in Jasper County. “It’s a perfect storm, and South Carolina is positioned so well with the trends you are seeing nationally and internationally,” Maxwell says. “We have this great opportunity this area never had before in manufacturing and distribution.”

Earlier in the year, the state’s Department of Commerce announced the South Carolina Innovation plan, which is intended to provide direction on how to best encourage the growth of tech-related entrepreneurial activity and innovation through workforce development. Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt called the plan a “roadmap” to focus on innovative companies and concepts in advanced manufacturing, life sciences, computer hardware and software sectors.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events