South Carolina’s Aerospace Industry Trends Towards Sustainable Growth

Economic impact grows to $19 billion

Columbia, SC (August 24, 2016)According to two new studies released today at the SC Aerospace Conference & Expo, South Carolina’s aerospace industry continues to drive economic growth.  An economic impact study released by the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness shows that the impact of aerospace on South Carolina’s economy has grown to $19 billion, an increase of $2 billion since last measured in 2014.

“Our findings this year are very encouraging,” said Ann Marie Stieritz, president & CEO of the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness. “The aerospace industry cluster continues to outpace the state average in terms of employment growth, and it continues to grow at a rate comparable to the automotive industry cluster. This is a clear indication to us that the aerospace cluster will continue to put our state and our citizens at a competitive, economic advantage.”

The Council’s study finds that for every 10 jobs that are created in the private sector component of the aerospace cluster in South Carolina, an additional 13 jobs are created elsewhere in the state’s economy. The average total compensation for private sector aerospace employees remained at $70,000 per year, and still far exceeds the state average of $41,338, and the manufacturing industry as a whole, which averages $53,350.

“This year’s research shows a clear indication that the industry is diversifying and trending towards sustainable growth. We see that the majority of firms continue to be small businesses with fewer than 5 employees. We also see growth, not just in aircraft manufacturing, but also in engine manufacturing, instruments manufacturing and other types of firms,” said Dr. Joey Von Nessen, author of the Council’s report and research economist at the University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business. 

The second study released at the conference, the 2016 Southeast Manufacturing Study, was conducted during May and June 2016. Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina participated. Aviation Week invited more than 300 companies to participate; 13 percent did so across five states. The purpose of the study was to better gauge the need for manufacturing workers in the Southeast, the region experiencing the highest rate of growth in terms of manufacturing operations in the United States.

Carole Hedden of Aviation Week Executive Intelligence will present the publication’s findings in the report titled, “Aviation Week Special Report: South Carolina Manufacturing Highlighted by Steadying in Demand, Requirement for More Advanced Skills.”

“As Boeing completes its ramp up in South Carolina – from zero to 7,500 employees in six years – and is now focused on execution of a highly complex program on a significant ramp up trajectory, our sample of supplier firms with fewer than 500 employees allows us to glean a more accurate picture of the other firms in the state’s cluster,” said Hedden. “The survey responses provide insight into the hiring trends for these firms in the coming 18 months.”

Respondents to the survey indicate steady increases in manufacturing jobs across the board. The six most in-demand job categories in South Carolina’s aerospace manufacturing sector (in descending order of demand) are: engineering technicians, aircraft painters, production technician, machinist, inspector and A&P mechanic.

South Carolina’s employers indicate in the Aviation Week study that they will rely heavily upon the high school education system to prepare these workers, but companies stress that post-secondary education is desirable for the high-demand job categories. Ninety-one percent of respondents in South Carolina indicate they would consider hiring an individual with no prior aerospace experience but who completed aerospace-specific manufacturing training through a technical institute and resulting in certification.

“The state’s aerospace industry is soaring, taking South Carolina and its economy to new heights,” said South Carolina Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt. “More than 30 aerospace companies have announced a new location or expansion in South Carolina since 2011, bringing several thousand new jobs to our state and making a statement that South Carolina truly is ‘Just right’ for aerospace.”

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.

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