Where Should I Open My Business In South Carolina?


March 31, 2017 9:32 am, Published by
Map of South Carolina showing counties
In recent years, South Carolina has attracted numerous companies to the state that want to take advantage of attractive business incentives. Two such headline-making companies are Boeing, which opened its Charleston facility in 2011, and Volvo, which broke ground on its Berkeley County factory in 2015.

Business owners looking to open a business here first need to consider where they’re most likely to encounter success. While available facilities, infrastructure, and local incentives do play a factor, undoubtedly the largest factor that will affect success is people.

South Carolina is Growing in Population

Companies opening a new factory or branch look for available work force to hire from. To forecast their success, they need to look not only at current population but at population trends, too.

South Carolina has been growing in population for years and was the 10th-fastest growing state in 2016. It’s safe to bet that this trend will continue for many more years in the future and that South Carolina will remain an attractive destination for business.

But is that influx evenly distributed through the state? Where are all the newcomers moving to? The Charleston area alone adds 48 new people every day. Mount Pleasant, with a current population around 85,000 will likely top 100,000 in the next few years. Meanwhile, several cities and counties lose people every day to other areas of the state and the country. What’s going on?

A Quick Lesson on South Carolina Demographics

At the end of the Civil War, South Carolina had 30 counties. By 1919, we had 46. Sixteen new counties were added in between, many to honor prominent men in South Carolina’s history.

For years, the state ran everything and counties had very limited power. Adding counties essentially meant drawing new lines on the map. New counties were carved out of existing counties: Marion became Marion and Dillon; Charleston became Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester; Barnwell became Barnwell, Allendale, and Bamberg; and so on. County populations were slashed as more counties were added, but again, that had no real practical consequences.

When counties gained more power after the Home Rule Act was passed in 1975, however, it began to matter. Where the state had previously been in charge, suddenly counties were responsible, and many counties were left without the ability to raise adequate money from their low populations.

Take a current example. Allendale County’s population is below 9,500 people, with a property tax basis of $30,000,000. From that, the county must support police and emergency services, public schools, infrastructure, amenities such as parks and libraries, and much more. For comparison, Charleston County’s was approximately $3,100,000,000 with approximately 380,000 people in 2015. Map of South Carolina showing county population growth and decline

Which S.C. Counties Are Growing and Which Are Shrinking?

It appears to be a vicious cycle. As counties are able to provide less to their residents, residents leave for greener pastures, leaving the county with even fewer people to tax and even less money to provide for their residents.

You can see this happening in census numbers: Between 2010 and 2015, 21 of South Carolina’s 46 counties have declined in population:

A further 13 grew more slowly than the U.S. growth rate of 4.1%:

Two counties grew faster than the U.S. growth rate of but slower than the South Carolina growth rate of 5.9%:

Ten counties grew faster than the South Carolina growth rate, including the three counties around Charleston (Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester) and two near Hilton Head (Beaufort and Jasper): Chart of 2010-2015 data of South Carolina population change by county

What This Means For Businesses Moving To South Carolina

Be strategic before selecting a place to open your business. South Carolina as a whole is a great place to run a business, but some counties are more attractive than others due to available workforce and infrastructure. Counties with a growing population will be more likely to support your business for years to come.

Population is just one factor when it comes to deciding where to open your business in South Carolina. To discuss your business’s prospects, contact attorney Gem McDowell.

Get strategic advice from Mt. Pleasant corporate attorney Gem McDowell

Business owners need more than corporate legal services to make their businesses thrive – they need strategic advice. Gem McDowell has over 25 years of experience helping businesses grow in South Carolina. He can advise on a number of topics including complex real estate transactions, where to open a new factory or office, what to do about corporate taxes, and much more.

Contact Gem and his associate Lauren at his Mount Pleasant office today by calling (843) 284-1021 or filling out this contact form online.


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