Clemson to push new economy for state

By JOHN C. DRAKE
The Associated Press

Clemson University researchers are planning to help city and county economic development officials fine-tune their job recruitment efforts over the next three years.

With South Carolina now holding the nation’s second-highest unemployment rate, Clemson officials are working to shift the focus from a lagging textile and apparel industry to high-tech firms and a well-educated work force.

Clemson professor David Barkley, co-director of the university’s Institute for Economic and Community Development, said the growing knowledge-based economy, reflected by the University of South Carolina’s hydrogen fuel cell research initiatives and Clemson’s automotive research cluster, are the future of economic development.

“South Carolina has no choice but to participate, and if they’re going to participate, then they’re going to have to make a serious and concerted effort in terms of investment, not only in research, but investment in human capital,” Barkley said.

Barkley and other Clemson colleagues now have a three-year funding commitment from the U.S. Commerce Department to spread the message across the state. Clemson said this week it had been designated as the state’s Economic Development Administration University Center for the next three years and will receive $162,700 annually to work with local officials.

Clemson’s institute has been around for some time, and researchers at the college have been doing economic development outreach to local officials for decades, he said.

Previous efforts for the university’s institute, based in Columbia, include industry-targeting studies in Lancaster County and Florence County and work with Lowcountry shrimpers to ring more profits to the sagging industry.

Phil Paradice, regional director for an eight-state region of the Economic Development Administration that includes South Carolina, said federal officials decided to open up bidding for the center designation throughout the region this year. Benedict College in Columbia had been the state’s EDA university center since 1983, Paradice said.

He said the decision to accept new proposals corresponded to an increase in funding for the program. He did not know the previous funding amount.

The South Carolina Employment Security Commission reported that the June jobless rate was 6.7 percent, ranking the state second behind Mississippi. The rate has steadily increased this year, confounding state economists who point to positive economic indicators such as increased income tax collections

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