SC jobs initiative under way

August 25, 2011

By Morris News Service and Sarita Chourey | The Augusta Chronicle

A new jobs report has found that local small-and-medium-sized firms are driving employment gains in South Carolina.

They make up South Carolina’s fast-growing, “high impact firms,” such as Aiken County’s Agy Holding Corporation with 704 employees and $70 million in sales. A company classified as “high-impact” refers to one that reported strong sales growth and are headquartered in South Carolina. Along with Agy, the report listed other top-traded high-impact firms from 2004-2008,including Barnwell County’s Kronotex USA Holdings with $273 million in sales and others.

The study, released Thursday, listed employment figures by county from 2004-2008, including Aiken, which had 49,370 employees of which 2,243 belonged to “high-impact firms.”

The study was conducted by economists from the Division of Research at the University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business and was funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the South Carolina Research Authority and AdvanceSC.

That’s not to say the Palmetto State is enjoying a jobs boom.

South Carolina’s jobless rate worsened from 10.5 percent in June to 10.9 percent in July, a rate that was higher than Aiken County’s, which dropped from 9.2 to 9.0 over the same period. In July the national unemployment rate was 9.1 percent.

“For years, it has been widely believed that small businesses create nearly all the jobs in the United States. However, recent research suggests something different,” said Douglas Woodward, economics professor and director of the Division of Research in the Moore School of Business, in a statement.

“New data indicate that it’s actually a small number of fast-growing, locally-based small and medium companies that are responsible for the majority of U.S. employment gains,” said Woodward.

Frank Knapp, president and CEO of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce, stuck up for small businesses, which his organization defines as having 100 or fewer employees. He pointed to the report’s finding that small companies with fewer than 20 employees, account for 26 percent of all companies in the state and 51 percent of all net job creation.

“It is absolutely an affirmation,” said Knapp in an interview Thursday. “All they did is verify what we’ve been saying all along.”

Knapp said his reading of the study findings only reinforced his position that small businesses are critical to the state.

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