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2023 Economic Outlook: South Carolina leaders cautiously optimistic about state's economy

On Tuesday economists, residents, local officials and business leaders gathered at USC's Alumni Center to talk about the future of South Carolina's economy.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — On Tuesday economists, residents, and local officials gathered at USC's Alumni Center to talk about the future of South Carolina's economy.

It was the 42nd annual event for the university's business school. The event is designed to try and see how the state's overall finances could look in the next year, including how it could effect businesses and the public.

Economists tell News19 that South Carolina is seeing lower than normal unemployment and a strong job market throughout the state. They note that in 2023, there is potential for a mild recession in the United States, but expect South Carolinians to fare well, given the state's strong economy right now. 

"The big theme of 2023 is the recalibration of the U.S. and South Carolina economy," said Joseph Von Nessen, Research Economist at the Darla Moore School of Business at USC. "We've seen an economy that's been very unbalanced this year. Demand has been far outpacing supply, and that's because consumer spending has been high due to a rapidly recovering labor market that we've seen over the past two years where people have gone back to work and earned wages."

Also speaking at the even was Columbia Mayor Daniel Rickenmann, who championed his city's growth. "We've had over 1,200 new business license applications in the last twelve months - that's new businesses, that's home base businesses."

While there is growth, Rickenmann says Columbia is still not a big competitor in the Southeast to draw businesses. He hopes to draw outside businesses in by lowering taxes in the city to reflect similar rates in Charlotte and Greenville.

USC Economist Dr. Doug Woodward says that could work, but there are a number of factors to consider.

"It's always tough because it's a loss of revenue," Woodward said. "We have a lot of needs in Columbia, and if we bring these tax rates down, how are we going to pay for everything that we need, including improving our infrastructure?"

"We shouldn't be a higher cost place to do business than Charleston or Charlotte, but with [property] tax rates on businesses, we are," Woodward continued.

A business that has seen this first hand is TPM in Columbia. TPM General Manager John Wagner says the tech company is headquartered in Greenville, where he says it's cheaper to run business than in Columbia.

"Tax rates can be a little bit higher, particularly in the city [Columbia] and it can be a little bit more difficult to get that business up and off the ground though."

Wagner says it's still good doing business in the Capital City, especially with its stability. "It's not a super dynamic business environment overall, but it's a steady business environment, so it tends to avoid the high and lows that you might experience in other markets."

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