November 6, 2017

Op-Ed from Carl Blackstone: 2040

2040. Is your business prepared?

When you walk or drive around Columbia and the Midlands region, the evidence of positive growth is undeniable. You see the progress and you feel the vibrant energy present in all parts of our community. Undoubtedly, it’s a great time for Columbia and for South Carolina. With all this positive momentum in the region, what’s not growing? Labor is the issue. For starters, let’s take a look at data regarding the change in the labor force.

The Southeast has experienced double digit population growth and positive job growth during the previous five years. That trends continues in South Carolina with Charleston County population growth at 11% and job growth rate at 26.2%; and Greenville County reporting 9% population growth and 8.3% job growth. Focus even closer to the area many of us call home, and the data shows Richland County population growth of 5% and the job growth rate at -2.6%. (Source: EMSI Q2 2017)

With all indicators pointing to a growth and positive momentum, why then is Richland County’s job growth rate anemic at -2.6% and significantly lower than the job growth rate of nearby cities in our state? This question is but one of the questions that the Columbia Chamber asks itself as we strive to fulfill our mission of being the unified voice of our business community. It is questions like this that enable us to provide value to the more than 1,100 businesses who place their trust in the Chamber. Furthermore, it is questions like this that led us to embark on a transformative process which brought together 100 of the area’s top business leaders for two full days to ask ourselves the really tough questions: How can we be ready for the future?

That process created a framework for the future of the Chamber, called Forward, Together. As part of Forward, Together, we are narrowing our focus on public policy initiatives and issues which have an overall impact on the cost of doing business. We continue our work to advocate for transparency and accountability in order to foster a favorable environment for business. We are planning for the accelerated pace of change our area is experiencing. You can learn more about this at our website,

2017 continues to have steady upward movement in activity and development within our region, and within our Chamber. We have a renewed commitment to our mission to provide the unified voice to our regional business community to create and promote an environment where businesses can flourish.

The Chamber is uniquely positioned to orchestrate connections between all stakeholders: government, non-profits, military, private sector, education and community. Our funding is through the businesses that choose to invest in us and their community. We are not funded by public taxpayer dollars. This places us in a unique and coveted position especially when it comes to asking hard questions like the one mentioned earlier.

What can you and your business do? Get involved. It will take the serious work of all stakeholders to define a better path forward in regards to jobs and investment. Our region needs the private sector to be engaged and be a part of answering the hard questions. It is only through sharing a common vision that we will grow in a thoughtful way. As evidenced above, there is positive momentum within the Columbia Chamber and within our region. It is an inspiring time as we are on the path to transforming our region. To borrow from James Cash Penney, founder of JCPenney: “Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.”

Carl W. Blackstone

President & CEO

Columbia Chamber


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