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The top industries and employers in the Columbia metro area

The Columbia metro area covers Calhoun, Clarendon, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lexington, Newberry, Orangeburg, and Richland counties.

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A view down Main Street from the state house steps. | Photo by COLAtoday

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More than 460,000 people (and thousands of businesses) contribute to the Columbia metro area’s $54 million economy. But have you ever wondered about the Capital City’s heaviest hitters?

Consider this Columbia Business 101 — your guide to our region’s five key industries and major employers.

Note: When we say Columbia metro area, that refers to the Central SC Region that includes Calhoun, Clarendon, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lexington, Newberry, Orangeburg, and Richland counties.

The key industries

Five key industries represent ~55% of the Columbia metro area’s economy, based on data from Central SC. We’ve listed them in order of employment numbers.

Health care and social assistance | 14%

Fun fact: Blue Cross Blue Shield of SC offering insurance services, contact center, claims processing... etc. employs over 10,000 people alone and is the top private employer in the region.

Prisma Health Midlands + Lexington Medical Center together employ over 21,000 individuals. The services in these industries are delivered by trained professionals and include establishments providing medical care, health care, and social assistance.

Retail trade | 12%

Under that retail bracket of employers, Wal-mart came out on top, employing almost 6,000 people. Amazon followed, employing over 2,600, and Samsung + UPS, both employing 1200-1350 people.

Manufacturing | 10%

Manufacturing in the Midlands comes in many different forms, but at the top of the list are Nephron Pharmaceuticals, Michelin, Trane, which makes metal products + machinery, and Samsung. Local players such as Kraft Heinz, and Westinghouse Electric Company, also carry a significant employment presence.

Accommodation and Food Services | 9%

Fun fact: According to the latest tourism data from Experience Columbia, visitation increased from 15.1 million in 2021 to 15.8 million in 2022, and visitor spending increased 12% over the previous year to $1.7 billion.

Of the $1.7 billion spent in Columbia, food + beverage spending accounted for $487 million — that’s 29% of each visitor’s budget.

The economic impact of tourism on our region is substantial and the total economic impact in 2022 sustained over 22,300 jobs and generated $130 million in state and local tax revenues.

The top food and beverage employers in the Midlands region are Dak Americans LLC, a company that creates plastic materials and resins, Mark Anthony Brewing, a brewer and producer of hard seltzers, and Devro Inc., a company that creates edible casings for meat packaging.

Public administration | 8%

The Public Administration sector consists of establishments of federal, state, and local government agencies that oversee and manage public programs. In total, the state of SC employs over 30,000 in the Midlands, the top two being the SC Department of Corrections and the SC Department of Social Services.

The major players

Now that we’ve established the major industries, we bet you’re curious about some specific names. Whether you’re job hunting (or just “casually prospecting”), here are five major employers — all that employ more than 5,000 workers on average.

State of South Carolina

32,085 employees | Public sector | Search jobs

With Cola being the capital of South Carolina, the city’s largest employer is the state — which helps drive tourism, the economy, business, and local government agencies.

Prisma Health Midlands

15,000 employees | Healthcare | Search jobs

In 2017, Greenville Health + Palmetto Health merged to become Prisma — and became the second-largest employer in Richland County and one of the largest healthcare providers in the region.

BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina

10,998 employees | Insurance services | Search jobs

BCBSSC is the only SC-owned + operated health insurance carrier in the state and has a family of companies and affiliates also offering services to South Carolinians.

Lexington Medical Center

6,557 employees | Healthcare | Search jobs

The hospital in West Columbia delivers more than 4,000 babies each year and performs more than 25,000 surgeries. It was also named the No. 2 hospital in SC and is recognized as the No. 1 hospital in the Midlands, according to U.S. News and World Report.

University of South Carolina

6,456 employees | Educational services | Search jobs

The over 200-year-old university is the largest in South Carolina and has been ranked as the nation’s number one first-year student experience. The university also boasts the country’s number-one ranking for international business via the Darla Moore School of Business. With its campus spread throughout the city, USC is the heartbeat of Columbia.

New jobs in the Midlands

2023 was a year of record achievements for economic growth in Richland County. The Richland County Economic Development Office (RCEDO) announced capital investments have surged to $2.35 billion, and with them, 4,532 new job opportunities have become available.

Scout Motors | Automotive |~4,000 jobs | Volkswagon is entering the electric off-road vehicle arena under the Scout Motors nameplate and building those cars at a new facility coming to Blythewood.

Cirba Solutions | Energy | ~300 jobs | Cirba Solutions — an electric vehicle battery materials facility — is investing $323 million to establish operations in Richland County. The new state-of-the-art, world-class lithium-ion battery recycling + materials facility will be ~400,000 sqft and located at Pineview Industrial Park, which is less than 1.5 miles from I-77 via Shop Road and home to Mark Anthony Brewing.

FN America, LLC | Manufacturing | ~100 jobs | The United States subsidiary of global firearms manufacturer, FN Herstal plans to expand its Richland County operations. The company’s $18 million investment will create approximately 102 new jobs.

Blanchard Machinery Company | Construction | ~30 jobs | The construction equipment supplier is opening new operations in Calhoun County. The company’s $46 million investment will create 30 new jobs and transfer 150 existing jobs from its Lexington County operations to the new facility.

Cooperative Electric Energy Utility Supply, Inc. | Utility, Energy | ~100 jobs | A consumer-owned electric materials supplier plans to expand operations in Lexington County, making a $52 Million investment.

Xerxes | Manufacturing | ~80 jobs | Xerxes is planning to establish its first SC Operations in Richland County by leasing a new production facility that will expand the company’s capability to deliver market-leading underground fuel and water storage tanks.

Mark Anthony Brewing | Fourth largest brewer in the US |~300 jobs | The Mark Anthony Brewing is a supply chain management company that invested $400 million in a new facility that created 300 new jobs to increase production of White Claw and Mike’s Hard Lemonade on Shop Road in Columbia.

This information is derived from the most recent data published by Central SC.

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