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Greenville ‘continues to lag’ in personal income

By Bill Poovey
Published Sept. 16, 2013

A new regional economic scorecard coordinated by the Greater Greenville Chamber of Commerce says the community “continues to lag” in per capita personal income. A chamber leader said the sixth annual report that shows Greenville’s per capita income at $35,038, the lowest in a lineup with 11 peer regions, should be a motivator. The scorecard identifies per capita personal income as the “primary measure of economic competitiveness.”

The chamber and Clemson University economists started the scorecard in 2007 to provide an objective comparison with peer communities after noticing a downward trend in the region’s per capita personal income compared with the nation. Greenville County exceeded or matched the national average between 1994 and 2001 but has since been on a slide.

John Moore, the chamber’s executive vice president, said the impact from Greenville’s downtown development and initiatives such as Greenville Technical College’s planned enterprise campus and growing entrepreneurial incubators will be showing up on future scorecards.

“This is a marathon,” Moore said. “It took us 12 years to decline to where we are today, versus the top of the mountain.” He said the community in recent years has developed “more infrastructure to help our economic competitiveness.”

“There is a lot of momentum in Greenville,” he said.

The report released Thursday at a GSA Business “Entrepreneurial Spirit!” event shows that Greenville County would have an additional $1.79 billion in spendable income if its per capita personal income matched the $41,560 national average. If the Upstate was at the national average, there would be an additional $12.13 billion in spendable income.

The report shows Greenville’s $35,038 per capita personal income behind Charleston $37,685 and Columbia $35,350. Other peer regions in the scorecard included Richmond, Va. $43,046; Birmingham, Ala. $40,816; Jacksonville, Fla. $40,709; Little Rock, Ark. $39,899; Louisville, Ky. $39,037; Lexington, Ky. $37,763; Jackson, Miss. $37,544; Knoxville, Tenn. $36,958 and Greensboro, N.C. $35,405.

Moore said per capita personal income in Greenville is growing but not at the same pace as the other communities.

“The competition is getting tougher, leaner and meaner,” he said.

Greenville surpassed national rates in employment growth, metro earnings per employee, gross metro product growth and total exports per job. In the human capital category that includes adult education levels and workers in occupations requiring specialized knowledge and creativity_ such as management, finance, IT, science, engineering, healthcare, design and the arts _ the scorecard shows Greenville has dropped since 2010. In innovative activity that includes patents issued, percentage of employment in computer, science and engineering occupations, Greenville far exceeds the national average and is just behind Lexington, Ky., in the peer community comparison.

The scorecard shows Greenville improved in entrepreneurial environment _ business starts and closings, number of businesses per 1,000 employees, percentage of income generated by self-employed business owners and share of employment in professional and technical services _ but remains far below the national average.

Moore said the low standing in the per capita personal income comparison reflects the total community.

“What are we as a community doing to make sure we have everybody getting on the team?’ Moore said. “If you look around the room it’s a lot of business executives. Go a mile west of here…” He said the report on personal per capita income “reminds us that we are not the whole community.”

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