A new report says the aerospace industry in South Carolina has a total economic impact of $17 billion. University of South Carolina research economist Joey Von Nessen said the aerospace industry has been a major supporter of economic growth in the state over the past decade, producing thousands of jobs throughout the state.
While the report notes Boeing has the most employees of any aerospace company in South Carolina, Von Nessen said you can’t point to Boeing’s arrival in North Charleston as a benchmark. “It’s not just Boeing,” he said during Tuesday’s inaugural South Carolina Aerospace Industry Day in Columbia. “It’s a network of firms that has risen in South Carolina over the last decade which supports over 100,000 jobs when you look at all the private sector jobs that come from aerospace and aviation, military aviation, as well as all the economic ripple effects that arise from that as well.”
Von Nessen said a major portion of the jobs associated with aerospace are military-based, which he cautions could adversely affect aerospace employment numbers in the state that if a military air bases is targeted during the next round of base closings or downsizing. Most of the military employment is located at Joint Base Charleston, Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, and McEntire Joint National Guard Base near Columbia.
Von Nessen said over the past decade more aerospace industry related companies have located to South Carolina and that has a created a substantial economic cluster that fosters growth.
“So a new firm coming in spends money with local suppliers and those suppliers spend money with their suppliers, and so on,” he said. “And because all those firms are in South Carolina, that’s additional economic activity. If we did not have that supply chain, that initial firm would be buying from suppliers out of state and we would be losing all those ripple effects.”
Von Nessen said there are 466 civilian companies employing more than 17,000 people across the state and major portion of these enterprises are small business firms.
“One of the surprising results that came out of the study was the fact that about 75 percent of the private sector firms in aerospace in South Carolina, meaning they have five or fewer employees, and their needs are very different from the large manufacturers, so it’s important to take both into consideration.”
Not surprisingly, the single largest company is Boeing, which employs about 6,500 in North Charleston.
Von Nessen said the industry has put new demands on education in the state to prepare the workforce for the future jobs being created by the industry. He cites the development of McNair Center at USC as one important initiative.
“Helping to sustain that growth going forward those workforce needs are critically important and that’s part of the mission of McNair, and part of the reason Aerospace Industry Day is happening is to discuss strategies more generally of how to sustain growth and workforce development going forward.”