South Carolina again posted a record year for export activity, with more than $26.1 billion in goods sold last year to 202 countries around the globe, according to state and federal officials.

The figures, courtesy of U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, represent a nearly 4 percent increase in South Carolina’s export value, which was $25.1 billion in 2012, a then all-time record for the state.

“Despite our relative size, South Carolina is a big state when it comes to our success in exporting, and it’s great to see those numbers continue to grow,” says Gov. Nikki Haley, in a statement released by the state Department of Commerce.

“Our existing companies and the companies we recruit rely on getting their products to markets around the world, and South Carolina provides that access through a logistics network that can reach all corners of the globe,” Haley adds.

According to the S.C. Department of Commerce, the state’s top 10 export industries last year were:

  • Vehicles
  • Machinery
  • Rubber products
  • Electrical machinery
  • Plastics
  • Aircraft, paper and paperboard
  • Optical and medical equipment
  • Organic chemicals
  • Wood pulp

The good news in exports comes on the heels of a record recruitment year for South Carolina, which in 2013 recruited $5.4 billion in capital investment by companies locating to or expanding in the state.

The state’s continued growth in manufacturing, capital investments, and global exports comes as no surprise to Bobby Hitt, the state’s Secretary of Commerce.

“South Carolina companies make quality products the world wants to buy,” he says. “Higher export activity reflects our state’s strength in recruiting companies in the manufacturing sector as well as our success in foreign-direct investment.”

Hitt adds that China is now both “a significant partner in exporting” as well as home to a number of companies “making big investments in South Carolina.”

And there are figures to back up this claim. For instance, China surpassed Canada and Germany as the state’s top export partner in 2013.

That’s quite a change from Hitt told Leo Rommel of Industry Today for a feature piece last year. At that time, Hitt said China was the state’s third-highest export market, with about $3.2 billion in purchases. Canada, at the time, was No. 1, purchasing nearly $4 billion in products, while Germany was runner-up, with 3.7 in purchases.

That all changed in 2013, the U.S. Department of Commerce says.

Last year, exports to China from the Palmetto State surged nearly 50 percent to $4.9 billion in the value of products purchased from South Carolina companies.

In the same year, Chinese firms brought the second-highest contributions to foreign-direct investment in the state, with companies including JN Fibers and The Keer Group announcing new projects in the state.

Canada, Germany, Mexico, and the United Kingdom rounded out the state’s top five export partners in 2013, officials say.

And for the third consecutive year, South Carolina ranked first among U.S. states in tire exports, holding nearly 30 percent of the share of U.S.-made exported tires.

Additionally, the Palmetto State ranked second in the export of automobiles to world markets.

“The rising production of export goods in South Carolina is a key driver of the SCPA’s growth well above the industry average,” says South Carolina Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome.

“Our natural, deepwater harbor facilitates the handling of heavier export goods, and through harbor deepening and other projects, the SCPA is preparing to meet the expanding needs of our state’s exporters and support South Carolina’s presence in the global marketplace,” Newsome says.

2013 South Carolina export rankings among states:

  • Ranked 17th in exports
  • Ranked only behind California in exports to Germany
  • Ranked 4th in exports to Czech Republic
  • Ranked 5th in exports to Hungary
  • Ranked 6th in exports to El Salvador
  • Ranked 7th in exports to China
  • Ranked 8th in exports to South Africa
  • Ranked 10th in exports to Sweden, Egypt and Chile
  • Ranked first in exports of tires, holding nearly 30 percent of the share of U.S. made exported tires (third year in a row)
  • Ranked second in exports of automobiles to the world

The U.S. Department of Commerce is the data source for South Carolina’s export statistics.

About S.C. Department of Commerce
As South Carolina’s leading economic development agency, the Department of Commerce works to recruit new businesses and help existing businesses grow. Commerce has recruited world-class companies to South Carolina such as Boeing, Bridgestone, Continental, Monster.com, ZF Group, BMW and Google Inc. and also supports small and existing business, rural development initiatives and community development. Commerce partners with the S.C. Technical College System via readySC to support workforce training and recruiting, and with the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce, which provides worker training and employment opportunities within the state. South Carolina ranked first in the national for attracting jobs through foreign investment, according to IBM-Plant Location International reports in both 2012 and 2013.


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