President Donald Trump’s call for economic nationalism could bring big adjustments to the United States, but South Carolina is in a strong position to cope with any major changes, an economist told Greenwood business leaders Tuesday.
“We’re in a really sweet spot right now. We’ve got really good growth in South Carolina,” said Douglas Woodward, a professor of economics at the University of South Carolina and director of its research division. “With consumer spending, the housing market coming back, there is a growing labor market. We’re optimistic that 2017 is going to be a good year.”
Woodward offered civic leaders a glimpse at the national, state and local economy, and how some of Trump’s campaign promises might affect markets during coming years.
Trump has promised to revitalize the U.S. economy through deregulation and rollbacks on foreign trade deals.
“South Carolina has a lot of connection to international trade through exports as well as through economic investments that come into our region, but now we’re in the area of economic nationalism, which is quite different from what we’ve been experiencing for the last 30 of 40 years,” Woodward said. “I think everybody has to agree that’s something we have to adjust to.”
The state has drastically reduced its unemployment rate from 12 percent in 2010 to 4.7 percent as of September, Woodward said.
A combination of record low interest rates, smart investment and a rich labor pool has helped turn those prospects around, he said.
“Increasingly, companies are looking at South Carolina as a very positive place to put their capital investment, and we expect that to continue,” Woodward said.
However, with more people in the workforce, Woodward said the state can expect to see a tightening labor market.
“What would step up our growth would be policies that encourage private business investment,” he said.
Woodward praised Greenwood’s quality of life as a catalyst for its recent economic success.
“What’s increasingly important is quality of life, because you’re competing with people who are increasingly mobile. You want to attract talent, not just companies. I think what people are looking for is the quality of life you have around Greenwood,” he said. “You’ve got a labor force that’s appropriate to this kind of economic activity that you don’t find in other regions.”
Contact staff writer Adam Benson at 864-943-5650 or on Twitter @ABensonIJ.