Officials say South Carolina seeing record-making years in exporting

Norris Thigpen speaks during a Darlington County Economic Development Workshop held March 7 at SiMT.
Photo by Melissa Rollins

By Melissa Rollins, Editor,

During a recent Economic Development Workshop at SiMT, attendees learned just how invested South Carolina companies are in exporting the goods produced within the state.

Norris Thigpen, with the International Strategy and Trade Division of the SC Department of Commerce, said that even though it is a relatively small state, South Carolina is a leader in export.

“Every single day what we are seeing is people and goods from the state of South Carolina traveling throughout the world and it is really exciting,” Thigpen said. “We have goods that are manufactured here and the people who actually sell them and make them traveling overseas, representing our state. South Carolina is truly a global leader both in what we produce and as an exporter.”
Thigpen said that South Carolina goods find their way to nearly 200 countries around the globe.

“In 2017…goods manufactured from across the state where sold to 190 countries throughout the world; that’s pretty much everybody,” Thigpen said. “There are a couple outliers but, for the most part, some one or some thing from South Carolina has been in nearly every country. To me, that is just amazing.”

Giving an overview of how South Carolina stacks up against larger states and neighboring states, Thigpen said that the state is in the top 20 states across the nation.

“Last year, we exported $32.2 billion dollars worth of export sales,” Thigpen said. “That is our seventh straight year of export sales growth and this has been continued growth, no big dips in those seven years. Last year was a record for the state and 2018 is getting off to a good start. South Carolina is the 16th largest exporter. Regionally, we compete neck and neck with our neighbors North Carolina and Georgia. Per capita, South Carolina as a smaller state in the Southeast is ahead of our friends.”

When it comes to the types of products being exported, Thigpen said that that are two that have been consistently on the top of the list.

“South Carolina, last year and for the past several years, has been the number one exporter of passenger automobiles,” Thigpen said. “We make and export 16 percent of all U.S. automobiles that go overseas and tires as well, 31 percent of the tires; we expect that to keep going up.”

As far as what markets are purchasing South Carolina goods, Thigpen said, China and Canada top that list.

“China is our number one export market,” Thigpen said. “This surprises a lot of people who think that we just import good from China; South Carolina exports a lot to China. In fact, we are the fifth largest exporter in the United States to China. Last year we did $6.2 billion dollars. Just to put in perspective who is sending goods ahead of us, that’s states on the West Coast, California and Washington, Texas, another very large state, and New York. Compared to regional proximity and the state’s size, we are doing very well in that regard. Our second largest market is Canada, where we send 12 percent of our goods.”

Part of the work of the SC Department of Commerce includes leading visits and delegations to overseas meetings with buyers. Thigpen said that those visits can include places like the JEC World show in Paris.

Other speakers during the Darlington County Economic Development Workshop included Adrienne Temple with SC Manufacturing Extension Partnership (SC MEP), Terri Luther with Apprenticeship Carolina and Daniel Beaty with the Existing Industry Division of the SC Department of Commerce.

Author: Duane Childers

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