CNBC Places South Carolina 30th in ‘Top States’ Ranking

Richard Breen

Friday, July 13th, 2018

Economic development officials around South Carolina aren’t fazed by the state’s middle-of-the-pack finish on a recent “top states” list – but they aren’t ignoring it, either.

“We can never have too much information,” said Brian Tucker, economic development director in Georgetown County. “We want to be at the top of every one of those lists. A lot of it depends on what you’re measuring.”

The “America’s Top States for Business” ranking by CNBC came out July 10. South Carolina finished 30th this year, down from 29th in 2017.

Each year from 2013-17, the Palmetto State finished between 23rd-29th. The cable television channel said it uses 64 metrics across 10 categories for its annual ranking.

South Carolina’s best category results this year were 17th in the “cost of doing business” and “economy” categories. Its lowest result was a 42nd-place tie with Mississippi in “quality of life.”

“We score the states on livability including several factors, such as the crime rate, the quality of health care, the level of health-insurance coverage and the overall health of the population,” said CNBC’s Scott Cohn in an explanation of the ranking’s methodology regarding quality of life. “We measure inclusiveness by looking at statewide anti-discrimination protections, as well as the ability of local jurisdictions to set their own standards. We evaluate local attractions, parks and recreation, as well as environmental quality.”

Jeff Ruble, economic development director in Richland County, found the “quality of life” result incongruous with what he’s seeing across the state.

“We’re doing pretty well in economic development,” he said. “If quality of life is so bad, why are people flocking here?”

A poor score rarely results in questions from economic development prospects, officials say. A high ranking does create a marketing opportunity, however.

“When something’s positive, we’re going to toot the horn,” said Patty Bock, economic development director for the city of Spartanburg. She said they’re touting a recent report by Kiplinger that included Spartanburg among “Satellite Cities Poised to Thrive in 2018.”

When less-positive rankings come out, Bock said she tries to examine how the information was gathered.

CNBC ranked Texas No. 1. Alaska finished last. South Carolina’s neighbors in Georgia and North Carolina finished seventh and ninth, respectively.

South Carolina’s consistently mediocre finish in the CNBC ranking is in contrast with lists compiled by other organizations. The Palmetto State tied for third with North Carolina in Chief Executive magazine’s 2018 “Best and Worst States for Business.”

South Carolina was No. 2 behind Georgia in Area Development magazine’s “2017 Top States for Doing Business.” The 2018 ranking comes out later this quarter.

Another recent ranking, by the career website, listed Charleston fifth, Florence seventh, Columbia 11th and Spartanburg 16th in its ranking of “Best Job Markets for 2018.”

“There’s rankings for just about anything,” Tucker said, pointing out that earlier this year, Georgetown was bestowed the title of “Best Coastal Small Town” by USA Today. “It allows us to either shout from the rooftops or it gives us some insight on how we can be better.”