South Carolina‘s Tech Industry Growth Outpaces National Trends

March 27, 2024

Since 2000, South Carolina‘s technology sector has boasted economic expansion exceeding national averages, fueling the rise of regional tech hubs. Strategic investments to nurture emerging companies along with an influx of tech giants have combined to make South Carolina one of the hottest growth markets in the country.

The numbers validate the Palmetto State‘s ascent as an innovation leader. From 2010 to 2020, employment in South Carolina‘s tech industry grew by a staggering 32.9% compared to the U.S. tech sector increase of 15.6% for the same period according to CompTIA.

Boasting 180,800 tech jobs adding $17.9 billion in annual value, this sector alone has an economic impact akin to hosting 85 Super Bowl‘s per year.

Tax Incentives and Specialized Development Propel Tech Expansions

South Carolina‘s flourishing start-up scene stands upon the shoulders of tech titans expanding major operations across the state over the past two decades. Industry leaders praise South Carolina‘s specialized workforce programs, ample real estate and business-friendly policies offering companies resources difficult to match elsewhere.

"South Carolina was the clear choice for our one million square foot campus tapping into the region‘s skilled talent pipeline and building automation ecosystem," said ABB spokesperson Gina DeRossi, commenting on the company‘s 2022 expansion creating 800 advanced manufacturing jobs near Charleston. "From corporate taxation policies to academic partnerships, South Carolina goes above and beyond to help industrial companies innovate."

Since 2013, South Carolina has poached manufacturing icons like Boeing, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz Vans from tradition coastal tech hubs by touting advantages including:

  • Corporate income tax rates capped at just 5%
  • Tax exemptions on manufacturing equipment, computer equipment, purchase of technology
  • Tax credits up to $50k per job created fitting certain wage thresholds
  • No state property tax plus discounted electricity rates lowering operating costs
  • Workforce recruitment/development incentives through technical college partners

Combine business-friendly policies with South Carolina‘s year-round warm climate, affordable cost of living index over 15% below the national benchmark, and direct international airport connections providing easy access for talent recruitment – the foundation for tech sector leadership has been laid.

Work-From-Anywhere Trends Drive Migration and Remote Talent Acquisition

Since COVID-19‘s emergence, companies embracing flexible and remote work models find borderless talent easier to access. Tiny towns and vibrant urban areas across South Carolina have all welcomed former out-of-state residents establishing temporary or permanent residence.

By Q2 2022 South Carolina saw the 7th highest net migration gain nationwide with relocations further accelerating. Growing 16% since 2020 to $373,000, Charleston home sale prices now rival San Francisco‘s. Meanwhile regions like Spartanburg, Columbia and Rock Hill keep costs far lower while offering arts, culture and amenities.

This influx of highly skilled workers choosing South Carolina for its affordability and lifestyle perks helps fast growing companies continually scale technical teams. Top executives hope updated remote work policies provide a strategic advantage.

"Our hybrid policies definitely widen the talent pool beyond regional constraints so we can evaluate candidates purely on ability to accelerate our software engineering roadmap," said Insurity CEO Chris Lafond.

South Carolina Tech Employment and Average Wages Outpaces National Figures

Fostering the Palmetto State‘s tech workforce today ensures stability for tomorrow. Per CompTIA research, South Carolina‘s tech occupations employ workers earning annual average wages over $89,000 – 79% higher than average annual wages across all private sector jobs in the state.

With more high-paying jobs come more reinvestment in local economies and communities statewide. The ripple effects mean main street shops, stand out restaurants and signature condos rising to serve an increasingly affluent knowledge workforce.

South Carolina has certainly gained ground, but for the Palmetto State to truly become a national tech leader nurturing the next generation workforce remains vital. Efforts are underway to expand access to computer science curriculum ensuring nobody gets left out of partaking in tech‘s economic promise.

Tech Education and Worker Retraining Keys to Maintaining Momentum

"South Carolina owes much gratitude to the expanding institutions driving innovation, but we must honor the responsibility to equip tomorrow‘s leaders with equal chance at sharing in tech‘s bounty," says Columbia Mayor Daniel Rickenmann.

Closing the digital skills gap means new emphasis on technology exposure region-wide. Initiatives are underway from Greenville to Charleston aimed at reaching low-income and rural youth who otherwise lack introduction to the high paying trades shaping their home state‘s future.

Despite hosting powerhouse companies, portions of South Carolina still suffer from limited broadband connectivity also dampening exposure. "We must work diligently and deliberately to turn every student‘s potential into kinetic opportunity by making computer science curriculum and internet access a staple of public education," adds Mayor Rickenmann. Partnerships joining state leadership with districts and the private sector can get this done.

For smaller towns impacted by fading textile mills and agricultural disruption, tech education offers hope. Nimble training programs geared toward adults seek dismantling barriers to entering software development, computer support roles and beyond.

Take Jennifer Brownlee, a 40 year old health clinic receptionist and single mother from Sumter hit hard when COVID-19 reduced doctor visits slashing her stable income. Jennifer felt hopeless – lacking college credentials or tech skills for available roles.

But that changed after discovering Midlands Technical College and its pathways scholarship funded by CompTIA‘s philanthropic arm. Jennifer enrolled in courses for IT support credentials and now works full-time as a ServiceNow administrator with growing income and confidence.

Jennifer‘s story demonstrates how South Carolina is getting proactive to enable economic mobility for citizens as technological transformation marches forward. "I feel so blessed to have found an opportunity to take care of my family doing something I enjoy while making new goals to reach even higher," Jennifer says.

Corporate Innovation Anchors South Carolina‘s Tech Prominence

Beyond generous tax incentives, what truly cements leading tech companies selecting South Carolina are the networks of commercialization springing from its renowned research universities paired with an extraordinarily high concentration of technological expertise flowing between firms.

Take Columbia, where Fortune 500 science & safety equipment maker Thermo Fisher directly neighbors the growing operations of Apple. Meanwhile, leading semiconductor firm Nephron Pharmaceuticals and healthcare data giant Healthverb now both call the Midlands region home – driving value from proximity.

Whether seeking partnerships to test a prototype medical device with Nephron‘s R&D experts, Systems to streamline clinical trials with Healthverb technologists or Supply Chain resilience insights from Thermo Fisher‘s risk analysts – likeminded corporations can always find the specialty expertise sought just blocks away.

These uniquely collaborative, close-knit hubs accelerate research and engineer distinctly South Carolinian solutions. Fostering both healthy competition and open expertise sharing converts corporate campuses into environments overflowing with intellectual capital. Workers regularly converse, companies barter patents and academia gets pulled closer to understanding commercial demands.

Blackbaud Cultivates Social Good and Shareholder Value

Founded in 1981 in Charleston and now publicly traded, Blackbaud (NASDAQ: BLKB) intersects technology prowess with societal giving – enabling a dynamic yet benevolent approach growing this cloud software giant into a $1 billion enterprise. How?

Blackbaud focuses wholly on maximizing philanthropic impact and operational efficiency within education, arts/cultural and social good entities. Supplying cloud tools for fundraising, stakeholder engagement, financial management and scholarship administration – Blackbaud counts American Red Cross, Stanford and Salvation Army among 150,000 organizations relying daily on their SaaS offerings.

With 50% of new bookings now stemming from integrated cloud solutions, Blackbaud continues trailblazing the migration of legacy charity technology infrastructure such as on-site servers into optimized, data-fueled ecosystems elevating nonprofit performance.

But unlike heartless corporations solely beholden to shareholders, Blackbaud walks the talk on community values – its 4,000+ employees eagerly volunteer over 70,000 hours and donate $5 million annually to strengthen neighbors. This conscious approach breeds an unparalleled culture that‘s simultaneously innovative, caring and focused.

Benefitfocus Sets Stage for Healthcare Access for All

Visionary thinking from Benefitfocus (NASDAQ: BNFT) founders in Charleston birthed a new era of technology infrastructure aimed at connecting employees more seamlessly to essential workplace benefits. Their cloud software reduces nagging paperwork and simplifies cumbersome enrollment – leading Benefitfocus to now serve over 25 million consumers with $268 million in revenue.

But as impressed as customers like PayPal, Nordstrom and Ameristar Casino are with Benefitfocus’ solutions optimizing their HR workflows – an even greater societal impact lies ahead through their latest efforts modernizing Americans’ access to healthcare coverage itself.

Powered by a recent integration with government entities streamlining verification checks, Benefitfocus unveiled its groundbreaking Marketplace Enrollment Direct software allowing citizens to securely browse, compare, purchase and enroll directly into Affordable Care Act marketplace health plans all in one place. This long overdue digital advance rids antiquated, confusing and disconnected processes permeating healthcare signups.

With over $1 billion spent just on avoidable paperwork across ACA applications, Benefitfocus brings much needed user-centric design to navigate critical coverage. Going direct-to-consumer makes Benefitfocus poised to radically expand its addressable market as over 28 million Americans lack health insurance.

Solving such monumental challenges both socially and commercially encapsulates the promise of South Carolina‘s technology landscape where skilled talent and inspired thinking merge into sustainable businesses advancing society simultaneously.

Emerging Innovation Across Industries

While storied corporations and serial entrepreneurs drive South Carolina‘s robust technology sector ever higher through optimized enterprise applications – under the surface another wave of niche startups fuse deep industry expertise with bleeding edge science to crack some of the world‘s most pressing challenges.

Dr. Michael Rusnak left a comfortable research role within a leading pharmaceutical giant to launch Drug Discovery SC, a contract research biotech firm solely focused on keeping rare disease medication innovation flowing despite unprofitability scaring Big Pharma away.

His workallows small foundations and global nonprofits to outsource targeted discovery services matching specific illness mechanisms with compound screening, preclinical research and beyond – breathing hope into communities commercial R&D left behind.

Shivangi Nadkarni graduated Yale with advanced bioengineering degrees but returned home to Bluffton, SC to launch AviGen Biotech in order to revolutionize how we isolate deadly pathogens to accelerate vaccine breakthroughs.

AviGen‘s patented nanorobotic isolation technique replicates human antibodies 1000x faster than current laboratory limitations allow – enabling rapid response to new viruses, containment of antibiotic resistance evolution and quite possibly avoidance of the next pandemic.

Over in Greenville, HighPoint Technology Solutions Founder JD Martin draws upon two decades of enterprise implementation experience to help Fortune 500 companies like Nike, Match Group and Peloton securely transition essential workflows to the cloud for unprecedented workflow efficiencies.

Other rising stars like Charleston-bred BoomTown bring real estate software innovation and Columbia‘s Insiteful provides app development studios next-level quality assurance tools – both poised to ride winning products into eight-figure valuations soon.

Academic Exploration Advances Discovery

South Carolina‘s respected research institutions provide fertile ground for exploration advancing core technologies underlying all future innovation.

Dr. Pingshan Wang secured millions in federal grants to perfect nano-carbon supercomputing research at Clemson University‘s ComputationalMaterialsLabs. By tailoring microscopic carbon structures into some of
the world‘s most advanced circuitry, their work allows computational power unimaginable even a decade prior across defense, aerospace, telecommunications and healthcare verticals.

Recent breakthroughs now enable iPhone 12-level processing capacity within a chip smaller than a dime while using 50,000x less energy thanks to atomic alignment. Their billion dollar NSF grant cements Clemson as a magnet for postgraduate talent driving next generation advances.

Meanwhile software visionaries at the University of South Carolina and The
Citadel now chart coursework educating beyond just coding – delving into psychology, ethics and sociology surrounding human-computer interaction.

Top engineering scholars get recruited into fully sponsored master‘s programs focused wholly on aligning emerging technology with positive societal outcomes. Facebook even helped launch an academy on responsible data science underscoring South Carolina‘s leadership marrying technological capacity with conscience.

The Future Remains Bright

Boeing propulsion engineer Li Chen relocated from Seattle and now happily calls Charleston home after South Carolina delivered on its promises regarding affordability, cultural amenities beyond work and easy coastal access for weekend adventures with her young family.

Talent like Dr. Chen gets recruited away from traditional tech hubs by companies ever-expanding thanks to South Carolina‘s potent mix of academic excellence, cultural charm and business-friendly policies – plus incentives that make relocation truly compelling.

Mayors across South Carolina‘s welcoming cities all recite similar versions of the same optimistic refrain: "With strategic priorities nurturing STEM education plus consistently coaxing both emerging and established tech firms to bet big on our state through incentives combined with stellar quality of life across myriad regions – our best days certainly lie ahead."

Judging by the influx of angel investments into young startups, corporate ribbon cuttings announcing fresh facilities and Barnwell‘s newest Tesla dealership struggling to stock inventory fast enough, South Carolina technology innovation hums brighter by the day.