ReadySC Program Proves to Be Key in SC Workforce

Worker training a key factor in South Carolina’s economic success, report says

The Post and Courier, Charleston

Nov 29 2015 5:00 pm  Nov 30 9:30 am
Cargo volumes at the Port of Charleston and at its rail-served Inland Port some 230 miles away in Greer are expected to remain strong, according to a report by Colliers International.
Cargo volumes at the Port of Charleston and at its rail-served Inland Port some 230 miles away in Greer are expected to remain strong, according to a report by Colliers International.FILE/AP
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Bobby Hitt, South Carolina commerce secretary, refers to it as economic development’s equivalent to a “secret sauce” — the ReadySC worker training program that helped lure Boeing Co., Daimler Vans, Volvo Cars and others to the Charleston region.

Now the program is being recognized in a new report as one of the key reasons South Carolina is able to compete with bigger and wealthier states for industrial growth.

“South Carolina is home to one of the top-recognized state-run workforce training programs in the country,” commercial real estate firm Colliers International said in its third-quarter report.

A division of the state’s technical college system, ReadySC “provides the required training to meet the skills demanded by a company,” the report states.

ReadySC trained nearly 4,700 employees working at 92 businesses during fiscal 2015, which ended June 30.

A skilled workforce combined with a low cost of living, a flourishing seaport, growing rail connectivity and South Carolina’s status as a pro-business, right-to-work state “will bring continued improvement and growth to South Carolina’s industrial market,” according to the report. “Construction activity will pick up throughout the state as demand remains strong and quality space is absorbed.”

That desire by businesses seeking to expand into South Carolina, particularly in the Lowcountry region, is creating ripples in the commercial real estate market by driving leasing rates for industrial properties to record highs. Rents in the Lowcountry average about $5.50 per square foot for new space exceeding 100,000 square feet, with tenants being asked to pick up the tab for property taxes, insurance and maintenance costs.

The Lowcountry market — defined by Colliers as Berkeley, Dorchester and Charleston counties — also is home to the state’s tightest industrial market, with a vacancy rate of 7.5 percent at the end of the third quarter. The figure for Charleston County was even lower, at 4.4 percent.

“Strong demand for space and limited options allow landlords to raise rental rates for existing space,” according to the report.

Colliers predicts activity at the Port of Charleston and the State Ports Authority’s inland port will remain strong as manufacturing output grows and cold storage facilities — such as a 340,000-square-foot refrigerated warehouse Lineage Logistics is building in North Charleston — increase their presence in the region.

Jim Newsome, the SPA’s president and CEO, this month reported a nearly 6 percent increase in cargo containers passing through the port this fiscal year, which started July 1, compared to the same period a year ago.

Area Development Magazine recently named South Carolina the third-best state for doing business, behind Georgia and Texas, which were ranked first and second, respectively. South Carolina has ranked in the top three spots since 2012, when it finished in second place.

“South Carolina will continue to attract new manufacturers and distributors as companies look for ways to improve their supply chains and logistics,” according to the trade publication. “Companies will benefit from the presence of the ports, highway accessibility and skilled labor force.”