Co-opetition among stakeholders in the I-77 corridor and across the state will be the key now and going forward to attract vibrant, expanding industries interested in investing and thriving in our region.
Co-opetition―cooperation among competitors toward shared objectives―is already a successful tactic among the stakeholders in our region in meeting one of the biggest challenges facing employers everywhere: finding people to efficiently fill those jobs.
The competition is fierce nationwide. Unemployment most recently was 4.2%, the lowest rate in 16 years, and only 222,000 initial jobless claims were filed in the second week of October, the fewest in one week since 1973.
Of course, there were a lot fewer Americans 44 years ago, about 212 million then vs. 323 million now, according to the U.S. Census. That makes the struggle for good people willing and able to do a good job even more challenging.
An available workforce both homegrown and willing to move for those good jobs is critical to industrial recruitment, and co-opetition has helped make that happen in the four counties―York, Chester, Fairfield and Richland―that comprise the I-77 region in South Carolina.
Co-opetition at its finest has been demonstrated in the creation, growth and agility of the Palmetto State’s technical college system. Those 16 schools are distributed across the state and have long had a national reputation for their ability and eagerness to work with new and existing employers to identify and train workers who can meet each company’s specific needs.
Their success also has filtered down to the high school level, where job development and workplace training are building on the positive work ethic already in place among so many in the corridor. Bolstering that is the long-proven flexibility between private developers and public bodies to get the requisite infrastructure and financial incentives in place to underpin that progress and potential.
An Ecosystem of Success
Such innovation and attitude grow in importance as industrial enterprises become more specialized and diverse. Indeed, South Carolina continues to grow its reputation in such prominent, sustainable and growing sectors as automotive and aerospace, advanced materials, chemicals, and forestry and agriculture.
At the SC I-77 Alliance, we target our outreach to growing enterprises domestic and international that look like a good fit for what the corridor has to offer. We and our four county development agencies work with the Department of Commerce and the other seven regional groups like us across the state in doing that, as well as with other private and public experts in economic development, including developers and law firms proficient in smoothing the way for this kind of expansion.
During all that outreach―digitally, by phone, and in person―we hear a recurring theme: All that expertise and efficiency doesn’t mean a thing if the people aren’t in place to set up shop and make the machinery hum.
And that’s where the I-77 corridor has a powerful hand to play. By working together over the years, educators and employers, community leaders and government officials alike have created an ecosystem that empowers surging economic opportunity for people who know how to show up on time, learn how to do their jobs, and then spend a career doing them well.
That’s the power of co-opetition.