Columbia ranks first in South Carolina in livability

But Columbia MSA has work to do in other key areas, report concludes

The Columbia metropolitan statistical area (MSA) is ranked higher than Greenville and Charleston MSAs and is tied with Raleigh in livability, according to EngenuitySC’s third annual Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report.

2016 Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report

USC President Harris Pastides presents Engenuity’s report Friday in Columbia. (Photo by Jeff Blake)

The report, announced Friday by Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin and USC President Harris Pastides, is a major annual initiative of EngenuitySC, an economic development nonprofit focused on enhancing the region’s competitiveness and prosperity.

The report analyzes economic competitiveness in the Columbia metropolitan statistical area (MSA), as compared with that of nine other metropolitan regions in the Southeast.

The report measures success based on the five major indicators of economic competitiveness: talent, entrepreneurial/business environment, innovation, industry clusters, and livability. The index for each indicator shows how the MSAs compare.

In the livability index, metrics including employment growth rate in arts, entertainment and recreation, cost of living, and vitality – the percentage of population ages 18-44 – push Columbia ahead of nearly all the comparative MSAs in the 2016 report. The Greensboro, N.C. MSA came in at number one overall for livability.

The Columbia MSA analyzed for the report included Richland, Lexington, Kershaw, Fairfield, Saluda, and Calhoun counties. Nine other metropolitan areas were analyzed for comparison, including Raleigh, Charleston, Greenville, Augusta, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, N.C., Knoxville, Tenn., Lexington, Ky., and Tallahassee, Fla.

Doug Woodward, Professor & Director of the Division of Research at USC’s Darla Moore School of Business, provided additional remarks at the event regarding the data in the report. Woodward’s team conducted the research and analyzed the data.

While Columbia was second in livability only to the Greensboro, N.C. MSA, it continued to lag in the other four index areas measured. After the results were presented, the Midlands Business Leadership Group (MBLG), represented by David Pankau, president and CEO of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and Lou Kennedy, CEO and owner of Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation, announced a new, MBLG-led effort aimed at correcting Columbia’s deficiencies.

MBLG, a coalition of more than 40 CEOs and executives from our region’s largest employers who regularly convene and work on issues that are important to the Midlands, will be using the report as a road map to catalyze action and seek improvements through the formation of community working groups.

“MBLG has a primary objective to accelerate the development of the Midlands as a cool region that attracts and retains top talent, produces vibrant job offerings, and provides necessary resources to improve livability for all people,” said Pankau. “Remarkable things can happen when the private sector takes the lead in working collaboratively with local government and other organizational leaders. We are proud to play that role and excited about what the future holds for this region.”

“The importance of this report is really three-fold,” says Meghan Hickman, Executive Director of EngenuitySC. “First, it provides an annual gut-check as to where the region stands compared to our peer and aspirant regions. Secondly, it tells us where we’ve made progress and where we need to focus more resources. Lastly – and most importantly – it provides a road map to inform decision-making and catalyze action across the Midlands.”

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