New Carolina is a statewide, business-led organization that identifies, launches and builds scale behind economic growth initiatives.

We focus on:


For nearly 50 years, from the 1950s to the early 2000s, South Carolina’s policymakers used an economic development strategy that centered on attracting manufacturers to our state with its flexible workforce, business-friendly environment, and responsive government.  Low-wage, low-tax incentives enhanced South Carolina’s agricultural and textile manufacturing base.  

This strategy worked for about 30 years.  From the 1950s to the early 1980s, per capita income in South Carolina rose nearly 400 times in real terms and increased to nearly 80 percent of the national average.  But for the following 20 years, per capita income stagnated at this 80 percent level.  South Carolina began to see a rise in competition from countries offering even lower wages and lower taxes.  Unable to compete, the state’s textile manufacturing base went overseas.  Despite these challenges, economic efforts continued to  employ the same recruitment strategies.  

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, business leaders began to look for new approaches to transform South Carolina’s economy.  The recruitment of BMW to upstate South Carolina in 1992, the loss of the textile industry to overseas locations, and the recognition of the importance of the South Carolina Ports Authority to the state’s economic health triggered a new discussion of how South Carolina should compete in the global economy.  

With a new vision of where South Carolina could sit in the global market, business leaders searched for a new model of economic development.  In 2003, several of South Carolina’s key business and civic leaders invited Harvard professor and leading authority on competitive strategy, Michael Porter, to make recommendations on how to approach long-term competitiveness in our state.  Dr. Porter  presented his economic analysis and recommended South Carolina form a public-private partnership of business, government and academia. That group was formed as the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness, and is now called New Carolina.


“It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”  - Michael Porter, 2003

Dr. Porter’s Strategic Plan for South Carolina included 8 recommendations for improving our state’s competitiveness:

  1. Activate and upgrade clusters
  2. Continue to enhance education and workforce training
  3. Invest in research and the University system
  4. Launch internal and external marketing campaigns
  5. Create an explicit economic development program for distressed areas
  6. Increase support for start-ups and local firms
  7. Create new institutions for economic development
  8. Measure progress in raising prosperity

Business leaders created New Carolina out of concern that a focus on outside business recruitment was not sufficient for growth and prosperity in a global economy.  Now when businesses are considering a move to South Carolina, recruitment agencies can use cluster development as a tool to identify existing networks of companies involved in industry and business environment growth.  New Carolina leads the engagement through collaboration within industries, among cluster groups, and across the state on critical areas of focus.  The result is a vibrant economy with forward-looking business leaders who collaborate with policymakers on actions to increase the long-term prosperity of South Carolina.   

Here is a summary of New Carolina’s progress on Dr. Porter’s strategic recommendations over the past decade:

  1. Activate and upgrade clusters.  Today, there are two bi-state clusters with North Carolina (nuclear and engineering), six statewide clusters and two regional clusters.  New Carolina collaborates with each of these clusters and has direct management relationships with five.  Other economic development groups, including government agencies, have started to organize industry recruitment around clusters.
  2. Continue to enhance education and workforce training.  New Carolina formed an Education and Workforce Development Task Force (EDTF).  Chaired by a prominent CEO, this is the only organization in the state that holds regular meetings on all public education interests across the spectrum of all public education interests, from birth to adulthood.  To help South Carolina move into the knowledge economy, the EDTF currently has three initiatives: Early Childhood Task Force, TransformSC and Connect Adults. The EDTF has also been instrumental in several successful education initiatives including the Education and Economic Development Act (EEDA or “Personal Pathways”), WorkKeys Career Readiness Certificates, QuickJobs and Apprenticeship Carolina.
  3. Invest in research and the university system.  South Carolina created the Centers for Economic Excellence, now called SmartState.  Today, there are 49 centers, with 35 endowed chairs for each and endowments of $2 million to $5 million per chair.  The state’s investment has brought in $1.2 billion in outside funds and has created 7,000 jobs.  One example is the Clemson University International Center for Auto Research (CU-ICAR), which has four endowed chairs and $450 million in public and private funds.  Additionally, the state passed the Innovation Centers Act and the Research Infrastructure Bond Act in 2004, which provided funds for three new research centers associated with Clemson, the University of South Carolina, and the Medical University of South Carolina, as well as $220 million in general research funding.  Finally, the state has reached out to establish business and research relationships with Israel, one of the most innovative countries in the world.  Two trade mission have resulted in more than 100 new business and research relationships between Israel and South Carolina.
  4. Launch internal and external marketing plans.  New Carolina has helped launch several campaigns, including  a tourism marketing plan (“Time to Thaw”), a certified South Carolina agricultural products campaign (“Nothing Fresher, Nothing Finer”), a recycling marketing campaign, and branding for the New Carolina organization itself via newcarolina.org.
  5. Create an explicit economic development program for distressed areas.  New Carolina contracted to complete the plan with MDC (originally known as Manpower Development Corp.) in Raleigh, N.C.  The report is called An Action Agenda to Spur Economic Success.  The Agenda’s major recommendation was to form something similar to the North Carolina Rural Center, and New Carolina is in the process of finding strategic partners and grant money for implementation.  The Agenda was also shared on to the implementers of a major initiative funded by federal grants for the I-95 corridor.
  6. Increase support for startups and local firms. New Carolina sponsors an annual competition with the Charleston Chamber of Commerce called "New Ideas for New Carolina." Nearly 1,000 business plans have been submitted over the last five years as a part of this competition. In addition, New Carolina, through the Entrepreneurship Task Force, formed a Startups Committee that held several conference over the pas four years including: A conversation on minority entrepreneurship with John Sibley Butler of the IC2 Institute at The University of Texas at Austin; A conversation on incubators with Diane Atkins of the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA); A conversation on high-impact entrepreneurship with Eric Pages; A roll out conference funded by the EDA highlighting high-impact entrepreneurs in South Carolina. As a result of this conference, a State Innovation Plan and a Capital Markets Plan have been developed, and a page on the South Carolina Department of Commerce website details resources available to startup companies.
  7. Create new institutions for economic development.  New Carolina was created as a direct result of Dr. Porter’s Strategic Plan and recommendations.
  8. Measure Progress in raising prosperity.  This is an ongoing challenge, but New Carolina hopes to launch a statewide competitiveness index to be consistently used for measurement.  Most of the progress made in South Carolina and North Carolina is best explained through examples of success.

For more specific information on New Carolina’s impact, visit the industry and education pages.

about ::

Stay Connected

Subscribe to our E-Newsletter and stay connected with New Carolina.

Thank you for signing up! Look for our monthly newsletter in your inbox soon.