Working in the Carolinas
By C. Grant Jackson
Whether you want to relocate a business, start a business or find a new job, the Carolinas offer a wealth of opportunities. And entrepreneurs and corporate executives planning to either start or grow a business are turning increasingly to cities in the Carolinas that are known as the hottest options for business.
Venerable business journal Forbes ranked North Carolina as No. 2 on its list of the Best States for Business in 2016. South Carolina came in at No. 21. Forbes measures businesses costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, economic climate, growth prospects and quality of life.
No matter who is dong the ranking, North and South Carolina always appear at the top of the lists of best places to do business.
Area Development, a quarterly magazine for site consultants and business recruiters, named South Carolina as the No. 2 state in the country for doing business, and North Carolina No. 9. The magazine considers multiple factors such as incentives, costs of doing business, taxes, access to capital and labor environment. South Carolina scored No. 1 for incentives and speed of permitting.
Site Selection, another magazine aimed at those who make the decisions on where to put a business, ranks North Carolina No. 2 and South Carolina No. 17 for business climate.
Five North Carolina cities – Raleigh, Durham, Charlotte, Greensboro and Winston-Salem – are among the “Best Large Cities to Start a Business,” according to the personal finance website WalletHub. Charlotte and Winston-Salem ranked second and third respectively for “Highest Growth of Number of Small Businesses.” WalletHub looked at the nation’s 150 largest cities using “16 key metrics ranging from five-year survival rate to office-space affordability to the educational attainment of the labor force.”
One reason for the rankings: both states offer plenty of assistance in launching, relocating or expanding a business.
The South Carolina Small Business Development Centers have been helping people for more than 30 years start new businesses or expand existing ones. The organization has 21 area centers serving all 46 counties across the state. The SBDC reaches about 5,000 clients annually with private consulting at no fee. Information is available at www.scsbdc.com.
“The SC SBDC helps to level the playing field for small enterprises by providing assistance with practically any business issue for which large corporations have entire departments,” explains Michele Abraham, state director. Fiscal management, strategic planning, marketing and sales growth strategies, operational issues, HR and guidance on obtaining financing are just a few areas the centers help with. Specialized services such as government contracting, exporting, new product development/commercialization and customized assistance for veteran owned businesses are also provided.
“The SC SBDC works closely with many state agencies such as the Departments of Commerce and Transportation, as well as local government entities, universities, economic development organizations, lenders, private companies and others to collectively leverage our resources and achieve optimum outcomes for our small businesses and entrepreneurs," Ms. Abraham said.
When the only pharmacy in Estill, SC, closed suddenly in July 2015, two registered pharmacists decided to fill the void. But Latoya Willams and Heather Epson knew they needed help launching their own independent, minority and woman-owned pharmacy. Ms. Williams contacted the Orangeburg Area Small Business Development Center where business consultant Murlene Ennis assisted with developing a business plan, preparing loan applications, addressing tax liabilities and licensing requirements.
Seven months after their first meeting with Ms. Ennis, the two women opened Estill Community Pharmacy. The pair wanted to create an old-fashioned “mom and pop” drug store with an emphasis on customer service beyond just filling prescriptions. As former employees of mainstream mega pharmacies, both Ms. Williams and Ms. Epson knew the downside of working for a corporate-run chain. “I basically had no interaction with customers. The prevailing attitude revered volume over customer interaction. This detachment does a disservice to both the patient and the pharmacist,” Ms. Epson said.
The Small Business Development Centers Assistance goes far beyond helping businesses get started. Charleston based SimTunes, LLC, a spinoff company of Health Care Simulation of South Carolina sought help from SBDC Technology Commercialization Business Consultant Dr. Jim Wasson to navigate government’s competitive bidding processes.
The assistance paid off big time. The company was awarded a contract from the Defense Health Agency valued up to $11.6 million over three years, a $150,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the Small Business Innovation Research program, and a $50,000 matching grant from SCRA’s SC Launch program which supports early-stage technology companies.
“SimTunes will forever be indebted to Jim Wasson. He was more than a counselor, he was an extension of the SimTunes team” said Heyward Coleman, SimTunes co-founder. “To use a sports metaphor, Jim was our clean-up batter who, in the final inning with a count of three balls and two strikes, hit a grand slam homerun.”
The South Carolina Department of Commerce also has an Office of Innovation helping start and build high-growth businesses in the state. The office focuses on developing a critical mass of high tech, high impact companies; growing a supportive, connected innovation community; supporting access to capital for companies at all stages of development and growing the workforce for high tech/high impact companies. Information is available through the department’s website at www.sccommerce.com.
North Carolina’s Small Business and Technology Development Center focuses on growth-oriented emerging companies and existing businesses. "We are, in essence, an extension service. We’re focused on providing business counseling, management education and related services to small and midsized companies all across North Carolina. It’s very intense, one-on-one counseling with business owners or people planning to go into business," said Scott Daugherty, executive director.
The center is the business and technology extension service of The University of North Carolina and operated in partnership with US Small Business Administration. With a lead center located in Raleigh, the SBTDC operates 10 regional service centers. The organization reaches more than 12,000 North Carolinians each year. Services can be checked out at www.sbtdc.org.
"Based on long-term data, our client-base significantly outperforms other small business activity in North Carolina, by a wide margin. The sales increases are much higher, the employment growth is greater, and that actually holds true even in downturns in the economy," Daugherty said.
In Durham, NC, Tyler Singleton says he was searching online for help with his startup Furnish This, when he “stumbled upon the SBTDC’s website, and I got really excited reading through the services available.” He downloaded an outline for a business plan and later met with counselors Pieter Swanepoel and Whitney Hildebran, who helped him with financials and market strategies.
The furniture retailer set a goal of $10,000 a month in sales, but did $150,000 the first year, and is set to quadruple that.
At Darby Communications in Asheville, Coral Darby says. “The SBTDC takes the fear away. Now I look at my financials and I understand them.” The public relations firm represents companies in the outdoor and fitness industries. “For the most part, I’m completely self-taught. I don’t have all the answers, and they rarely come easily. It’s nerve-racking, but there are resources like the SBTDC that I can tap into.”
Expanding or Relocating a Business
The Carolinas, and South Carolina in particular, have long been among the top places for businesses to expand or relocate. And business and employment growth in both states have benefitted significantly from foreign investment, especially in the automotive sector. North Carolina Commerce Secretary John Skvarla told Forbes that $2.7 billion in foreign direct investment helped generate 5,300 jobs largely in the state’s high-tech job sector in 2015. Mr. Skvarla said the state is on track to top those numbers.
The SC Department of Commerce works in partnership with regional and local economic development agencies throughout the state to recruit industry and help existing businesses expand. Advanced manufactruring industries, such as automotive and aerospace, have seen considerable growth in the state. Information on Commerce’s services is at www.sccommerce.com.
In North Charleston, Boeing South Carolina employs some 3,000 workers to fabricate, assemble and install systems for rear fuselage sections of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and join and integrate midbody fuselage sections.
Automaker Volvo is establishing its first American manufacturing plant in Berkeley County near Charleston and expects to employ up to 2,000 workers over the next decade and up to 4,000 people in the longer term. Employment at BMW’s facility in Greer has reached more than 8,000. The numbers show the continued strength of employment in the state’s manufacturing sector.
The North Carolina Department of Commerce is the state's lead agency for economic, community and workforce development. The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, under a contract with the department, focuses on recruiting new businesses to the state and supporting the expansion needs of existing businesses. Go to www.nccommerce.com for information.
The automotive sector is also creating jobs in North Carolina. GKN Driveline, a leading supplier of automotive driveline components and systems, is creating more than 3,400 jobs and investing about $180 million as it expands facilities in Alamance, Catawba, Lee and Person counties over the next five years.
Technology jobs are also growing in both states. Software giant Citrix is expanding in Raleigh and adding 400 jobs over the next five years. The Florida-based company currently employs about 800 in downtown Raleigh. As part of the expansion, Citrix plans to hire software engineers, marketing professionals and account managers. In Lancaster, S.C., technology infrastructure services company CompuCom is expected to create 1,500 jobs at its news global headquarters over the next five to seven years. “CompuCom’s new headquarters in South Carolina places us closer to many of our clients, as well as near an expanding network of IT professionals in North and South Carolina,” said CompuCom CEO Dan Stone in making the announcement.
Finding a Job
Six North Carolina cities – Raleigh, Durham, Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Fayetteville – are among the best places to find a job, according to WalletHub. Analysts looked at key indicators for the 150 most populated U.S. cities ranging from “job opportunities” to “employment growth” to “median annual income.”
Raleigh and Durham are also listed among the best cities to find a job and “stretch your paycheck” by NerdWallet, another personal finance website. San Francisco-based NerdWallet’s study of the largest 100 cities “factored in federal data on unemployment rates and workforce growth, as well as medium earnings and rent costs.”
Durham was ranked the 5th best place by NerdWallet, and Raleigh is listed as the 10th best place in the country to find a job by both personal finance sties. WalletHub found the 3rd highest monthly median starting salary (adjusted for cost of living) in Durham. In those cities, technology and health care dominate the job landscape. Residents of Durham and Raleigh have a quick commute to the 7,000-acre Research Triangle Park, where more than 46,000 people work, most in technology. In Durham, Duke University and Health System is the city’s largest employer by far.
State Capitals like Raleigh and Columbia, which tend to have more government job opportunities than other metro areas, are among the most fertile ground for job seekers, according to both websites.
Job opportunities also abound in the South Carolina. University of South Carolina research economist Dr. Joseph Von Nessen notes that the advanced manufacturing and the business and professional sectors are two areas that have shown strong job creation.
Construction also offers a great deal of opportunity for job seekers, according to Dr. Von Nessen. Both South Carolina and North Carolina get high marks for construction employment opportunities. The states finished in the top six nationwide as part of an Associated Builders and Contractors yearly Building America: Merit Shop Scorecard report, which includes a look at the construction job growth rate and a commitment to promoting a well-trained workforce.
A tightening labor market, Dr. Von Nessen said, is making it harder for employers to find qualified employees to fill positions. But that creates opportunities for job seekers.
Both states offer help to the job seeker.
The SC Department of Employment and Workforce offers comprehensive searchable job databases through its SC Works Online Services at www.jobs.scworks.org. Any job seeker can search jobs, set up a profile, post a resume and more. The SC Works Online Services links all of South Carolina's state and local workforce services and resources.
The South Carolina industries with the greatest worker demand include health care; education; professional, scientific and technical services; manufacturing and finance and insurance. Lots of jobs are also available in retail trade, food services and accommodations and wholesale trade. The greatest numbers of jobs tend to be available in the metropolitan areas.
The state of North Carolina offers help through its NCWorks Career Centers and online at www.ncworks.gov. Not only is job searching available, but job seekers can access other services such as a resume builder and options of education and training.
In North Carolina, the most jobs are expected in healthcare, professional services, wholesale/retail trade, and construction related industries.
Thousands of jobs in the Carolinas.
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