Scorecard Findings – Advanced Manufacturing, Innovation and Prosperity

Posted by: Hank Hyatt on Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Things are moving in the right direction in the Upstate of South Carolina.  Two weeks ago, the Greenville Chamber released its 6th annual Regional Economic Scorecard, our attempt to provide a focus and set of metrics by which the community can gauge its progress toward improving the overall prosperity of our economy and our residents. While our primary measure of prosperity – Per Capita Personal Income (PCPI) declined again relative to both the US and our competitors, we are seeing “on the ground” developments that will eventually turn that negative trend around.  In fact, the Southern Governors’ Association just released this report which validates both our metrics as well as some of our strategies developed to impact those metrics.  Let me take just a few minutes to explain. The Report – Advanced Manufacturing in the American South: An Economic Analysis Supporting Regional Development – focuses on a number of themes that bear repeating:
  • “Low-Cost” is not a development strategy.  “Value-add” is a development strategy.
  • Regionalism, high-level policy coordination and accountability in resource allocation are critical.
  • Entrepreneurship and human capital development strategies are key because of the innovation deficits that characterize the South.
Our region’s historic focus on being a low-cost location has attracted many larger investments. However, as the development landscape has shifted over the years, these large investments are seen much less frequently and a new paradigm is needed.  According to the report, we need to “ignite sources of economic dynamism beyond just the..investment that appears to be driven by a low-cost structure. [The region} needs a broader base of high R&D-intensive manufacturing.”  This “advanced manufacturing” sector depends upon “the application and integration of innovative technologies, materials and processes to the production of manufactured products.” And how does this relate to the Economic Scorecard?  According to the report, “the region’s lag in college-level attainment and in the share of the workforce in science and engineering relative to the U.S. ..have likely contributed to a sizeable deficit in innovation activity.”  Until this gap declines, we will be at a competitive disadvantage.   The Scorecard highlights the fact our region still has tremendous work ahead of us in terms of human capital development, innovation as well and entrepreneurial support.  It’s nice to see national research projects confirming that we are focused on the right areas. While there is much work to do, much work is already being done.  The new Greenville Tech Enterprise Campus initiative recently approved by County Council is geared directly to advanced manufacturers and will hit all major areas included in both studies: human capital development, promotion of innovation within manufacturing and support of entrepreneurial manufacturing firms.  This is certainly a game changer for our community.  However, this is a long-term process. Results will take time. As the Governors’ report reminds the reader on several occasions, “investments need to be strong, focused and persistent.”  Time will tell.  I look forward to seeing the results.

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