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Per capita income lags behind in Upstate

By Liz Segrist
Published June 17, 2011

Education and entrepreneurial development is the key to increasing the per capita personal income for the Upstate, local economists said at GSA Business’ Power Hour event Thursday.

The Greater Greenville Chamber of Commerce and Clemson University economists created the 2011 Regional Economic Scorecard, in partnership with the Upstate SC Alliance, to highlight the transformation of the Upstate’s economy and compare the region to peer communities throughout the country.

That comparison shows the Upstate’s per capita personal income falling further behind the national average, a trend that began more than a decade ago.

Greenville County per capita income was around $36,000 in 2009. The U.S. stood around $39,000 for the same year. Greenville County and the Upstate as a whole have seen a downtrend occurring for years, according to the scorecard.

Panelists David Hughes, the Clemson University Extension Community Development Activities program leader, and Hank Hyatt, the Chamber’s economic development vice president, discussed why the Upstate is falling behind with the help of audience input.

Human capital, innovation, entrepreneurism and concentrated economic strength determine income growth, according to the scorecard. Human capital and the education of that capital in particular are keys to turning the trend positive.

Hughes said a bigger focus on K-12 and higher education funding models, as well as support for all types and levels of entrepreneurial development, is the key to increasing per capita personal income over time.

“Year-to-year we’re not going to see a huge change, but we need to be looking at the drivers and we need to be moving people up the value chain,” Hyatt said.

The transition for a textile-driven economy to a manufacturing and entrepreneurial one will continue to be important for the Upstate economy, Hughes said, noting that it will take time to see the rewards of those efforts.

GSA Business Power Event Series is made possible by: Charter Business, presenting sponsor; The Palmetto Bank, series sponsor; EDTS, a highlighted event sponsor and Select Corporate Housing, a highlighted event sponsor.

Get the July 4 issue of GSA Business to read more about the how the scorecard shows the per capita personal income for the Upstate and the discussions from the Power Hour event about how this could change in the future. Click here to subscribe.