Last week, Palmetto Business Daily asked a number of South Carolina businesses to identify the biggest benefits of doing business in the state. Today, we publish those leaders' view on the biggest challenges facing businesses in the Palmetto State.
Developing infrastructure while balancing growth and maintaining South Carolina’s unique heritage are among the state’s biggest challenges, said one state business leader.
Marc Fetten, CEO of Cooper River Partners and chairman of the Trident CEO Council, identified infrastructure as the biggest challenge.
“Our growth has outpaced our investments in infrastructure,” Fetten said. “I travel all around the world a lot, and lived outside this country, and we have really fallen behind in infrastructure, roads, mass transit, rail systems, you name it, even airports. “
Infrastructure in general is a challenge but people are working hard to address it, Fetten said.
“These are 20-year projects, you just do not wake up one day and say, 'I need a new bridge,'" he said. "It takes a lot of planning.”
Fetten said another challenge is balancing South Carolina’s unique heritage with new growth.
“We have to be smart about it, have to be balanced about it, have to be selective about it," he said. "But aligning all that means we just have to bring the right patience and respect to the table, to work through that, because it’s a real issue."
Fetten also pointed to the Charleston region's exploding population.
“You cannot double the population of a region in 20 years and expect things to go smoothly and not have opponents," he said. "They need to be heard and their ideas need to be included in a growth plan that really works.”
James Trimble, of Trimble Private Brokerage, a Charleston-based real estate broker, also highlighted a problem specific to his industry and South Carolina.
“The challenge in the real estate business is the standards are so low,” said Trimble. “They are lowest standards in the United States.”
As an example, Trimble said it took 13 hours to take the realtor’s test in Maine, where he operated previously. In South Carolina, it took 20 minutes.
“It’s ridiculous,” he said.
While it is not a major issue with his business, Trimble also pointed to the lack of experienced tech workers and the shortfall in fast broadband as an issue for that industry.
David Wolle is COO of KOS Services, operator of Family Dental, which operates clinics in Greenville, Rock Hill and Columbia. Family Dental is an affiliate of Dental Dreams, a provider of dental services with 65 locations in 11 states.
Wolle said he believes the lack of dental schools is the biggest challenge facing his profession.
"It being a smaller state with only one dental school, our greatest challenge in South Carolina is to be able to hire enough qualified dentists to meet the demands for services in our offices,” said Wolle. “It is in the best interest of South Carolina from both an economic and public health perspective for the state to have a good supply of dentists who are willing to treat Medicaid-enrolled patients."
Wolle suggested that If South Carolina provided additional incentives for dentists practicing within the state who treat a clientele of predominantly Medicaid-enrolled patients, the shortage of dental services for underserved populations would be drastically reduced.
“Given that South Carolina has demonstrated creative and proactive approaches to addressing public health concerns in recent years, we have confidence that they will continue to find ways to be a leader on these issues," he said.
Ted Pitts, president of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, said small businesses are still the backbone of South Carolina’s business community.
“Small business owners will tell you that our state’s business licensing fee processes is not business friendly,” Pitts said. “That is why we are pushing to standardize the process and reform the system.”