Where the growth is

Just got a release today from the state Chamber announcing that “The deadline is extended until August 31, 2009 for companies to nominate their business for the Top 25 South Carolina Fastest-Growing Companies program.”

I don’t know who’s going to make that list, but SCBiz reports that 31 South Carolina companies made Inc. magazine’s list of the 5,000 Fastest Growing Companies in America for 2009.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that not one of them made the top 500. The highest on the list was Customer Effective, a Greenville IT services company, at No. 541 on the list.

Anyway, it’s nice to know some part of the economy in South Carolina is actually growing, so congrats to Customer Effective and the other 30 growers. It will be even nicer when some of us find jobs as a result of said growth…

34 thoughts on “Where the growth is

  1. Bart

    I still have a mostly dark, gray screen with some white blocks and highlighted banners. Everything scattered around the screen. Anyone else having the same problem?

    Anyway, 31 out of 5,000. Them numbers just ain’t good ’nuff.

  2. Randy E

    Here are the states with counts of companies. SC is 35th. Of the top 20 only TX, FL, GA, AZ, and TN are red states. I understand that there are many factors but the GOP is supposed to be the business friendly party.

    CA 613
    TX 393
    NY 316
    FL 263
    VA 261
    GA 227
    IL 224
    PA 215
    MA 202
    OH 188
    NJ 174
    MD 151
    CO 147
    MI 118
    NC 115
    AZ 108
    WA 107
    MN 106
    TN 100
    WI 83
    UT 78
    OR 74
    CT 72
    MO 70
    IN 62
    AL 53
    KY 49
    OK 45
    KS 37
    LA 36
    IA 33
    NH 33
    NV 32
    DC 31
    SC 31
    NE 27
    DE 17
    ID 14
    ME 13
    MS 12
    AR 11
    RI 11
    ND 8
    WV 8
    NM 7
    MT 6
    VT 6
    HI 4
    PR 3
    AK 2
    SD 2
    WY 2

  3. doug_ross


    The counts by state aren’t very indicative of anything but population. At the state level, it would be difficult to correlate red/blue versus the number of companies on the list. The only “interesting” states in the top half of the list to me are MD and UT… but Maryland is there probably because of businesses located around DC. It would be nice to know what the businesses in Utah are — probably high tech. Utah has only 60% of South Carolina’s population yet has 2.5 times the number of listings.

    The numbers seem to suggest that South Carolina does not offer a positive business development environment most likely due to poor education, higher taxes, and a state government that is more interested in self preservation than business expansion.

  4. Brad Warthen

    … or a state government that is FAR more interested in keeping taxes low than in providing the kind of workforce and environment that growing companies want. And that’s the truth of the matter.

    Maryland invests in its people and its infrastructure. I’ve never been to Utah, but I bet you’ll find they do the same. Here we expect people to succeed or fail on their own (so they mostly fail), and don’t take ownership for trying to build the kind of communities in which business grows.

  5. Lee Muller

    Having worked in 38 states, and having had to pay income taxes in some of them, I can say that SC has taxes higher than a lot of them, about twice the rate of Illinois, for example.

    You can’t just look at what is served up by a search engine or a article thrown together by some reporter. You have to live it, and know people who live in other states and what they pay.

    SC never adjusted their tax brackets for inflation, so the brackets are set far too low. But the biggest problem is the complexity of taxation laws which do not conform to the federal laws, which creates more bookeeping.

    Back to this list, many of the companies are temp agencies, growing because of the layoffs of “permanent” employees.

    I also see a bunch of companies from previous years that are missing. They are in businesses tied to the core economy of actually producing things, not brokering misery or riding a wave of government subsidies. Those real businesses are way down from last year.

    France, Spain, Germany and Sweden all went into recession last summer, at the same time at the US. They all seem to be recovering, while our recession gets worse by the month.

    Right now, the uncertainty created by so many threats of new taxes, regulations, and mandates has businesses afraid to hire, investors afraid to invest, and banks afraid to lend. The Democrats are destroying the economy.

  6. Birch Barlow

    Having worked in 38 states, and having had to pay income taxes in some of them, I can say that SC has taxes higher than a lot of them, about twice the rate of Illinois, for example.

    Once again Lee has some kind of personal experience or expertise on a subject that you do not have making your viewpoint inferior.

    Silly me. I’ve only lived and worked and paid taxes in one state. All I had was a feeling and some data I admittedly found on a (unreliable, no doubt) search engine.

    Well done, Lee. You truly are the king of the internets.

  7. Randy E

    Doug, being a stats geek, I created a scatter plot with population rank on the x-axis and number of companies rank on the y-axis.

    The states that higher ranking in number of fastest growing companies relative to their population rank:
    GA, VA, MA, MD, CO, OR, CT, UT, KS, NH, DE, DC, ND

    The states that had a lower ranking in companies relative to population rank:
    MI, NC, WA, MO, IN, LA, SC, MS, AR, NM, WV, HI, MT, SD, AK

    Take out DC and VA because of proximity to congress and only 3 of 11 of the states with company rank outperforming population rank are red.

    Of the underforming states, 9 of 15 are red.

    Similarly, the states performing better on standardized tests for public education are in the northeast – the bluest of blue portions of the country.

    Brad makes an important point about investing in people. SC has certainly been hurt economically by education problems.

  8. Lee Muller

    I spent the last 3 years on projects in Oakland, Tacoma, Portland, Long Beach, Miami, Jacksonville, Charleston, Norfolk, New Orleans, Mobile, and Newark.

    Yes, I have some-boots-on-the-ground experience, in addition to being a consulting economist who knows what real data is and what it means.

    Why does that bother you? I am sure other people here have a lot of time working in Georgia and North Carolina. They know the details of the economies and the taxes there, much better than some cub reporter.

  9. Lee Muller

    Barack Obama was raised as a communist.
    His father was a Soviet-trained communist.
    His mother was a communist.
    His Kenyan grandfather was a Mau Mau terrorist.
    His mother’s parents were communists.
    His mother’s boyfriend, ‘Frank’, was a famous communist.
    His best friends are communists and terrorists.

    Take Obama’s word for it – his plans are socialist.

    That’s why none of them seem to work to fix the economy.

  10. doug_ross

    Randy says:
    “Brad makes an important point about investing in people. SC has certainly been hurt economically by education problems.”

    Three questions:

    1. How would you invest in people?

    2. How would you pay for the investment – by cutting spending in other areas or by taking additional taxes from people who don’t need “investment”?

    3. Utah spends $5437 per student on K-12 education while South Carolina spends $8091 (link: http://ftp2.census.gov/govs/school/elsec06_sttables.xls)

    South Carolina spends more per student than neighboring states North Carolina ($7388), Tennessee ($6883), Florida ($7759) yet does not have anywhere near the same business development environment.

    How do they achieve better results than South Carolina?

    Our state legislature has no track record for success in developing a pro-business environment. They fund things like Innovista (a massive waste of money still looking for a purpose) and hydrogen cell research (a technology already deemed the wrong choice).

    Until we get some smart business people in state government, South Carolina will always lag behind.

  11. Randy E

    Doug, those are fair questions. There is to investment in people beyond per pupil spending.

    Georgia funded in state tuition long before SC. NC funded National Board Certification for teachers long before SC and made it part of the pay scale as opposed to bonuses.

    South Carolina annually sees Sanford threaten to take away the National Board Certification supplements. Sanford attempted to refuse stimulus money to fix schools in significant disrepair.

    Those are some examples of our neighbors taking a comprehensive approach to education.

    In CT, teachers must earn a master’s degree before receiving the highest certification. 31% of the over 25 population has at least a bachelor’s degree. Compare that with 20% in SC, 23% in NC, adn 24% in Georgia. My impression is that education is much more highly regarded up here.

  12. doug_ross


    I would support increased teacher pay if (and only if) it came with an ability to more easily remove teachers who are ineffective.

    There are way too many teachers (especially at the high school level) who are either just going through the motions due to burn out or else due to the fact that their “real” job is coaching the defensive backs on the football team.

  13. doug_ross

    Note that Florida and Tennessee do not have an income tax. Again, I ask – how do they manage to do it while South Carolina cannot?

    We should eliminate personal property taxes on cars and implement a flat income tax to start with.

  14. Bart

    Randy, some things cannot be charted or assigned to statistics, etc. They start with the prevailing culture in any region, state, or nation. In your new home area, education has always been given a higher place on the list of priorities based on the fact that the Northeast has always been a more industrialized area, therefore requiring a more technical approach to training and educating employees, etc. The Northeast has been the nation’s leader in economics, education, and most other areas for centuries. It is not surprising to find a higher number of residents with bachelor degrees.

    In the rural South, including South Carolina, agriculture was the mainstay for centuries until the advent of advanced farm equipment, eliminating the need for laborers. As farms grew more sophisticated in harvesting techniques, those who controlled the purse strings did not see the need to invest in the future of those who once depended on them for employment.

    When the textile industry was shipped overseas for production of cloth and manfacturing of clothing, again, industry leaders did not respond as they should have.

    Industries seeking to take advantage of a cheap labor pool, virtually uneducated and pliable, moved a lot of industry South and were able to take advantage of lower taxes, no unions, cheap land investment, cheaper construction costs, etc. The list goes on and on. Again, the level of investment into the general population was minimal.

    The South in general is still going through a transition and it will take many decades before ever achieving any parity with the Northeast in terms of education.

    Even with the obvious handicap, the South has produced some of the world’s finest in all fields of endeavor. My children are examples. One holds a corporate position in IT with Nucor, and the other is a specialist in IT security with a national company and is considered one of the best in his field, nationwide.

    My background has allowed me to travel and work in at least 30 states plus Puerto Rico. After witnessing the level of education in chemical, petroleum, pharmaceutical, agriculture, and many other industrial companies, those working at the higher levels in companies located in the South are just as well educated and productive as their Northeastern counterparts. At the field level, I have found much the same.

    If the parents do not encourage or place an emphasis on education, the child is most likely to adopt the same attitude. If a child is raised in a home where neither parent has completed high school or did not go to college or a tech school, chances are they will not either. It MUST begin with the parents. Otherwise, 100 years from now, the same discussion will be taking place on another forum or panel.

    We instilled the importance of education in our children from birth until they finished college and even afterwards, encouraging them to obtain their masters. One has completed theirs, the other is working on it.

  15. Lee Muller

    I am referring to reporters who are unfamiliar with a subject, and throw together a story as “cub reporters”, regardless of their age or time at a desk.

    Birch, if you don’t believe some of the facts I posted, or disagree with my perception of the taxation problem in South Carolina, try to engage that subject.

  16. Lee Muller

    When private companies decide to raise their wage scales, it is in order to hire a better staff of employees.

    The same should be true of schools. There is no reason to pay more money to the same people you have now. If you are going to pay teachers more money, open it up to the free market and replace the dead wood with superior workers from other vocations.

  17. doug_ross

    I agree with Bart. I grew up in Massachusetts and the emphasis on education 30 years was light years ahead of where South Carolina is now. Massachusetts had (and continues to have) a strong commitment to vocational education in high schools. There is no doubt in my mind that providing vocational alternative high schools in South Carolina would have a dramatic impact on the dropout rate. Students who don’t want to learn advanced math or foreign languages or other cookie-cutter topics could be educated in everyday skills with an emphasis on literacy… and be taught a meaningful professional skill at the same time. It wouldn’t necessarily rule out college but would instead create options besides what we have now.

    My daughter got a small “taste” of this via the culinary program at Blythewood High School which consists of three semesters of in-the-kitchen experience. She’s now heading into a culinary program in Charleston because of the practical experience she gained in high school.

    Unfortunately, when you talk about vocational education in this state, the educrats come out of the woodwork to shut it down. Because it’s new. Because it’s different. Because it upsets the status quo. Because they didn’t go through it, so obviously it doesn’t work.

    Let’s build a world-class vocational high school in every county and see what happens to the dropout rate. There’s an investment (probably $1 billion dollars) that would directly result in jobs.

  18. Bart

    Hooray for doug! I wholeheartedly agree with the vocational education concept especially for those who do not plan to attend college or seek a degreed profession. Unfortunately, as I discovered for myself years ago, the tech schools, while offering a good return for investment, do not fill the gap. There are still some instructors who are not qualified to be in a classroom. I had to take a few courses and it was embarassing to know more than the instructors.

  19. Randy E

    Doug, there is great commitment to vocational education in CT. In fact, the state oversees the tech system and these schools are very similar to traditional schools. They have athletic teams, extra curricular activities, and AP courses.

    Bart, certainly the family plays a profound role. As you and Doug state, there are other important factors as well. Here’s an example. My wife grew up Hartford – very urban. Her mother was a hard working blue collar worker who never talked about college. Around my wife’s 9th grade year a guidance counselor asked her where she wanted to go to college. My wife replied that she never gave it any thought. The counselor explained that she would indeed go to college and she did.

    Georgia’s state government made a concerted effort to keep their college students in state. NC made an effort to increase teacher pay for meeting a riorous set of certification standards (I have first hand knowledge of this). These are examples of the government helping to influence the value and importance of education.

    On the other hand, you have Sanfraud and SCouRGe offering up propaganda that SC has the “worst” schools in the state based on SAT and drop out rates. In fact, SC does NOT rank at the bottom of the NAEP tests. Sadly, the voucher debate is what drives reform in SC, hamstringing comprehensive and meaningful reform.

  20. doug_ross

    Well, Randy, as a parent with now two kids in the SC college system, I can now offer observations about that as well.

    South Carolina could have done a good thing with the lottery money and make in state tuition free for South Carolina residents who kept up good grades. But you know what happened? First, they took away the stipend for books (because, I assume, books are very profitable). When my son started at USC four years ago, the LIFE scholarship covered nearly all of the tuition. This year, due to the tuition increasing at higher than inflation rates, it comes up a couple thousand dollars short.
    Funny how having access to all that free money allowed USC to stop worrying about holding down costs. That’s what happens when you get something and not have to work for it.

    It’s an extreme stretch to blame Sanford for anything related to the public education system in this state. Do you seriously want to suggest that Sanford saying there are problems or that vouchers should be offered has any impact on student performance? How does that work?

    Test scores don’t matter a bit (except to use as a way to make sure students are not passed along). All that matters in K-12 education is getting kids to the finish line and graduating. That is not something South Carolina can brag about in any way… and that has nothing to do with Mark Sanford.

  21. martin

    Doug, I don’t know how long you’ve been here (15 years fighting the school district, I know), but Fritz Hollings had a lot to do with setting up the TEC system when he was Gov. close to 50 years ago. You know, back when these SC governors who have no executive power actually accomplished things.
    They have taken on more of a community college role in the past 10 years or so, acting as a feeder into 4 year colleges.
    TEC seems kind of under the radar now, especially when we don’t use them to train workers for companies like BMW. But, they are still doing the kind of vocational things they always have. Don’t know if they still do it, but they had Cisco and Microsoft certification training about 10 years ago.
    Also, in most counties I know of there is at least one Career Center that provides vocational training to high school kids, allowing them to start, and sometimes complete, a training program by the time they graduate. Like your daughter and the culinary arts.
    I think those vocational kids are common sense smarter, certainly more mature and focused, than many of the ones going to 4 years colleges right after high school. But, there’s still some snobbery involved that probably keeps some kids from getting into a vocational program when they might be happier if they did.
    Randy, having Mark Sanford bad mouth our schools, and our state in general, for 6 years, has set us back at least 12. It has set us against each other, too.

  22. doug_ross


    You are correct. All I can add is that even in Massachusetts in 1975 there were still “snobs” in the education system. I distinctly remember getting my standardized test scores in 8th grade and having the school guidance counselor say to me, “Do you really think you should go to the vocational school with scores like that?” Ironically, her husband was an English teacher at the voke school. I guess I was too smart for him in her opinion.

    Four years spent working on state-of-the-art (at the time) computer systems prepared me for college and a 25 year career in the industry. It can be done. In fact, I have two brothers AND three nieces/nephews who went through the same voke school with great success.

  23. Randy E

    Doug, I don’t blame Sanfraud for the problems in the SC education system. I blame him for leading the charge on vouchers that stunted any meaningful reform and for disparaging the system unfairly.

    As Martin explains, there was a SC governor who took the lead to affect change by creating these tech schools which you rightly champion.

    The tuition has been skyrocketing for years so this is not a recent phenomena. Also, USC is getting it’s money one way or another. They have not been hurting for enrollment so if the money comes from a lottery or from financial aid or parents is likely moot.

    My original point holds, some states make education and investment in people a higher priority than in other states.

  24. Lee Muller

    Since school teachers are some of the highest paid salaried workers in South Carolina, it seems we have made education a priority. We are spending an average of between $8,200 and $13,000 per pupil each year in the various districts. A significant number or school teachers and college professors, and all administrators, have pensions worth more than a million dollars.

  25. Lee Muller

    In Fritz Hollings’ era, the state ran the entire school system off a 1 cent sales tax, and built new schools in every district and the TEC system with another 1 cent sales tax.

    Today, the schools have six times as much money, and produce test schools and graduation rates which are not significantly better than in the 1960s.

  26. doug_ross


    You can’t keep saying that discussing vouchers as an option for improving public education has somehow impacted the performance of the schools without showing evidence. Not a single dollar has been spent on vouchers. Education spending has increased dramatically with little (if any) tangible result. Is that not an investment?

    You want higher teacher pay. Will you accept a stronger policy for eliminating ineffective teachers to achieve that? Will you even admit that there are ineffective teachers out there in the public schools who should be fired?

    I also don’t understand your comment about how USC will get its money anyway regardless of the source. If the LIFE scholarship was eliminated, there would be students who would drop out. All the LIFE scholarship did was create a new bucket of money that could be tapped as the tuition was increased at rates significantly higher than inflation. What factors would require USC to increase costs every year at above the inflation rate? My answer: because they can. They don’t have to run USC like a business.

  27. doug_ross

    Also, Randy, do you consider the $500 million in bond referendum money over the past ten years in Richland 2 to be investment in education?

  28. Bart

    The scholarships that come from the lottery are an oxymoron. First, those who can least afford scratch-off and lottery tickets are the very ones buying them. Just stop in a local convenience store and watch who spends the most money on them. I have witnessed on more than one occasion someone spending $20 on scratch offs and winning a couple of dollars in return. Guess what? They were not wearing a coat and tie either. Buying lottery and scratch-off tickets is no different than playing video poker machines

    Yet, the people who generally buy them are the least educated and still don’t take advantage of the educational opportunities(?) afforded through the lottery system revenues.

    Now, tell me if this is a hidden, undeclared tax or not? I think it is a regressive tax on the working poor.

    Randy, I have a legitimate question for you. What reforms would you propose and implement to further improvement in the educational system is South Carolina. No joke, I am genuinely interested in your perspective from a teacher’s point of view. Time for the BS and other point-counterpoint to be set aside and ask serious questions of each other. The answer or answers are in there somewhere and if we don’t find it, our children and grandchildren will continue to lag behind the other states.

  29. Lee Muller

    The Democrats have a bunch more regressive taxes in store for lower-income people:

    * carbon taxes built into every manufactured product

    * 200% increases in utility bills

    * price inflation of goods due to devaluation of the dollar from massive deficit spending

    * 8% decrease in wages necessary for employees to pay the mandatory health insurance

Comments are closed.