South Carolina’s Aerospace Cluster is Outpacing Southeastern Neighbors

Columbia, SC (August 27, 2015)South Carolina is outpacing North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama in private sector aerospace employment and revenue growth, according to Dr. Joseph Von Nessen, a research economist with the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business.

In partnership with the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness and the Harvard Business School, Dr. Von Nessen presented his analysis entitled “Aerospace in the Southeast: South Carolina and Its Competitive Markets,” on Thursday (Aug. 27) during the second annual South Carolina Aerospace Conference and Expo held in Columbia, S.C.

AERO comparative fact sheet Aug 2015 page 0011Among the key findings of the analysis:

  • From 2010-2012, South Carolina’s annual private sector aerospace employment growth increased by 15.5 percent, which exceeded North Carolina (increased by 10.7 percent), Alabama (increased by 2.5 percent) and Georgia (declined by 2.3 percent).
  • From 2010-2012, South Carolina’s annual private sector aerospace revenue growth increased by 15.5 percent, which exceeded North Carolina (increased by 8.1 percent), Georgia (increased by 6.9 percent) and Alabama (declined by 1.8 percent).
  • In private sector aerospace firm growth, South Carolina experienced an 18.7 percent increase, ranking third behind North Carolina (25.3 percent increase) and Alabama (21.3 percent increase) and ahead of Georgia, which ranked fourth with a 14.1 percent increase.

An industry “cluster” is a group of complementary businesses that focuses on or serves the same industry. They come together to increase efficiency and innovation within that industry, while boosting the overall economy in a region. Clusters attract more businesses to an area and provide more opportunities for existing businesses to grow.

South Carolina’s aerospace cluster includes manufacturing, air transportation and air transportation support services firms operating in the private sector and the state’s four military aviation facilities. The private sector component of the aerospace cluster in South Carolina contains more than 400 firms. Approximately 74 percent of these firms are small businesses, containing five or fewer employees.

“As I’ve always said, when we get a lot of smart people together in one place, good things will happen. We will use the findings included in this report to continue the conversations about the future of our fastest-growing industry cluster,” said SC Department of Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt. “Above all else, the report shows that aerospace is now a major pillar of South Carolina’s economy and will remain so for the foreseeable future.”

“The findings show South Carolina is competing well with other states, but the findings also show there are is an opportunity to increase firm growth and diversify the sectors within the industry,” said Ann Marie Stieritz, president and CEO of the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness. “The Council is guided by this information as we continue our work with individual companies and the support chain to establish a robust aerospace industry in South Carolina.”

About the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness

The SC Council on Competitiveness is a business-led, non-profit organization advancing the long-term economic competitiveness of our state, industries and citizens.  Our work is accomplished through actionable economic research, support of industry clusters and education and workforce initiatives.  For more information, visit