USC critical economic engine for South Carolina

info@islandpacket.comJanuary 27, 2012 

We all are well aware of the tremendous positive impact that the late Charles Fraser's creative vision and determined quest for quality community building had on the South Carolina Lowcountry and especially on Hilton Head Island.

In the late 1970s and 1980s, Charles was frequently heard to say with profound conviction that other than the natural beauty of the Lowcountry, the two most critical components that assured vibrant, high quality growth for Hilton Head were the bridge and Hilton Head Hospital.

I am confident that if Charles were here today, he would enthusiastically add the University of South Carolina to that list. The cultural, social, educational and technical enrichments that USC Beaufort brings to the Lowcountry have greatly enhanced our area's attractiveness as a complete community, a special place to vacation or call home. But there is far more to the USC story than intangible enhancement.

The recently released economic impact study prepared by the Darla Moore School of Business at USC dramatically underscores the role of USC, with its eight campuses, as an economic engine for the state's economy.

Nearly 53,000 jobs -- about 1 in every 37 -- in the state are connected directly or indirectly to the university's eight campuses.

South Carolina residents with bachelor's degrees earn about $15,000 a year more than people without degrees, resulting in a $1.29 billion economic impact from USC alumni through their higher wages and the money they spend on goods and services.

Moreover, as the number of college graduates in an area increases, the wages of all workers rise, creating an "economic spillover" of $1.62 billion.

In the Lowcountry, USCB supports jobs, increases household income and boosts the state's overall economy. The total statewide economic impact of USCB's two campuses, in Beaufort and Okatie, and its alumni is more than $74 million. Included in that figure is a more than $23 million contribution to South Carolinians' household income. Furthermore, USCB and its alumni support 1,011 jobs in the public and private sectors, directly and indirectly, through purchasing in the community. The entire USC system and its graduates contribute more than $69 million to Beaufort County's economy.

As a whole, the USC system does all of this while providing the taxpayer with a generous return on their investment -- about $75 million more to the state's tax coffers than is received in appropriations.

In the current economic environment, our university's relationship with our community is more important than ever. And as South Carolina emerges from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, there is much cause for optimism.

In the years ahead, USC will work to ensure that it continues to have a positive impact on the lives of our residents and the welfare of our communities. As a living laboratory for innovation, the University of South Carolina is vital not only to the progress of education, but also to our economic security.

The University of South Carolina and its alumni have continued to drive South Carolina's economy amid the financial turmoil of recent years. Its $4.1 billion annual economic impact is far-reaching, touching all regions and every county in the state. And together with intangible benefits, such as improved community health, leadership and lower crime rates, all of which are associated with an educated populace, it will assure brighter futures for all who call South Carolina home. That is good news, indeed.

As a proud alumnus of USC and an active supporter of USCB and the entire USC system, I wanted to share this good news with those in our community who might not be fully aware of what a jewel and economic powerhouse we have in our midst. While we obviously take great pride in our tremendous Gamecock football and baseball successes in recent years, we also take great pride in the tremendous qualitative and quantitative value that USC in general, and USCB in particular, adds to our county and our state.

Bethea is a long-time Lowcountry resident and attorney who is a trustee emeritus of the University of South Carolina.

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