Every fall, the Greenville Area Development Corporation staff eagerly awaits Area Development magazine’s annual Survey of Corporate Executives edition. This first-rate analysis identifies what the most important factors for U.S. companies were in locating or expanding operations the previous year. We then try to assess how well Greenville matches up with the contemporary demands of growing companies who can provide new jobs and capital investment for our community.
While the 2020 survey was completed before our region was consumed with the COVID pandemic, the results are still valid. More than 45% of the companies surveyed say they plan to open new facilities within 5 years. Of those, more than 80% say the U.S. is their primary investment focus — with the Southeastern region of highest interest. Over half of the companies surveyed were manufacturers of durable or non-durable goods; many others are involved in logistics and distribution.
For 2019, ‘Highway Accessibility’ was the most important location factor for new facilities, with ‘Availability of Skilled Labor’ and ‘Labor Costs’ closely following. All normally rank relatively high since most of these corporations depend on workforce to deliver high quality, globally competitive products on time and on budget. Fortunately, Greenville County has strengths in all these areas — making us a competitive location option.
Also worth mentioning is the relative value these companies place on financial incentives. A common misperception among the media is that community inducements are often the primary factor in a company’s decision to locate or expand. This year, ‘State and Local Incentives’ rank 14th behind ‘Proximity to Markets’, ‘Available Buildings and Sites’ and ‘Fast-Track Permitting’.
Surprisingly, ‘Quality of Life’ is ranked as #4 in importance for the surveyed corporations. Historically, most executives have been obsessed with lowering total costs of operations to improve profit margins. Lower utility costs, construction costs and corporate tax rates usually ranked well above ‘Quality of Life’. Today, attraction of highly skilled workers can determine a company’s growth potential, even in manufacturing. As the magazine states “Sought-after workers — especially tech-savvy millennials and Gen Z — can be choosy about where they work “. Given the demand for their talents, educated and mobile workers can first decide where they want to live knowing full well a job will likely await them.
Quality of life can mean different things to different people. Baby Boomers may place more importance on things like quality of healthcare and local schools, or overall cost of living. To younger generations, the ability to engage in the community, job fulfillment and outdoor culture often rank higher.
However you define quality of life, Greenville County is well-positioned to compete for the educated and empowered workers needed to sustain an economy valuing both traditional and contemporary measures of vitality. Your GADC works diligently with public and private partners to highlight these critical assets as we compete for new jobs and capital investment.
By all measures… it appears to be working well. Thanks for your continuing support.
Mark Farris, President & CEO
Greenville Area Development Corporation