Home to Columbia, South Carolina’s state capital, Richland County boasts an impressive array of assets, including postsecondary institutions, transportation infrastructure, and the US Army’s Fort Jackson. Richland County also offers unique neighborhoods; historical landmarks and homes; a thriving riverfront; cultural, arts, and entertainment offerings; and outdoor recreation. This attractive business climate and high quality of life resulted in record investment and job creation in 2020. However, Richland County still faced challenges to growth, such as pandemic-related disruptions, entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems struggling with scale, insufficient commercial real estate, difficulty retaining and attracting talent, high property tax rates, economic inequity, and the need to raise the region’s profile.
To understand these challenges and its role in addressing them, the Richland County Economic Development Office (RCEDO) hired TIP to create a five-year economic development strategic plan that would articulate a common vision, goals, actionable strategies, and organizational governance recommendations. The resulting plan was informed by extensive data analysis and stakeholder input, including interviews with State and County officials, regional partners, and business leaders. Four goals emerged as key to powering growth and shared prosperity: 1) position Richland County to compete for new high-quality investment and jobs; 2) foster a more resilient, innovative, and dynamic base of existing businesses; 3) engage in a comprehensive campaign to raise awareness of Richland County’s advantages and RCEDO’s successes; and 4) commit targeted resources and work with regional allies to support workforce development, entrepreneurship, community development, and economic equity. In addition to strategies for achieving these goals, the plan offered recommendations for restructuring RCEDO’s economic development approach by creating a public-private partnership (P3).