I think we are all thankful to have 2020 behind us and are optimistic about this new year. As I reflect on 2020 several things struck me. In a Presidential election year, July through mid-November is a slow time for economic developers. Companies typically would put any plans they have regarding expansions/relocation on hold until the election is over. That was not the case in 2020, economic developers were busier than ever during that time period. My organization became engaged in more projects in those five months than we did in the first six months of the year. And the timelines for decisions were much shorter than we have experienced in the past.
Employment in the hospitality and retail sectors were hard hit during 2020 but manufacturing and construction employment were bright spots. They kept average statewide unemployment levels low during the last half of the year, but not as low as 2019. At the end of 2020 some manufacturers were experiencing the same problem as at the end of 2019, they had jobs looking for people.
As we begin 2021, I believe we will see additional manufacturing employment growth in South Carolina and the Southeast. But that growth will be stymied by a shrinking labor force. The SC Technical College System is ready to train those who are ready to make a career change and return to full time employment.
With vaccine deployment in process, I am hopeful that by the summer we can get back to “normal” in most aspects of our lives. This will allow all sectors of our economy to recover.
Will Williams, President & CEO of Economic Development Partnership, based in Aiken, S.C. , served as the 2020 Chair for the Southern Economic Development Council (SEDC).