Recently, the Governor’s Local Government Competitiveness Council Report for South Carolina was released to identify and analyze the factors that allow counties to attract, retain, and develop business and industry. Areas of public infrastructure, taxes and regulations, and workforce development were studied, and counties were grouped based on population size: Group 1 – 100,000 or more; Group 2 – 30,000-99,999; Group 3 – 29,999 or less.
Oconee County, with a population just over 76,000, is one of 17 counties to fall into Group 2, and ranks very well within this group. In comparison to neighboring Anderson and Pickens Counties, both in Group 1, Oconee remains very competitive and outscores both counties in multiple areas.
Within its peer group, Oconee County rises to the top of the rankings in several categories. One of the most notable of these is the educational attainment of residents. On average, 16.4% of residents in Group 2 counties have Bachelor Degrees in comparison to 22% in Oconee; 80% have High School Degrees compared to Oconee’s 83%; and 27% have some college or an Associate Degree compared to 28% in Oconee County. Oconee’s average SAT scores are also the best of Group 2, with SCPASS reading and math scores being the second best. Taxes and regulations is another category in which Oconee County ranks high among Group 2 counties. With the lowest property tax burdens for commercial firms, and the second lowest for manufacturing firms, Oconee outperforms almost all of her peers in this area.
When it comes to comparing Oconee County to its larger neighbors, Anderson County and Pickens County, both of which have larger populations and greater resources available to them, Oconee County remains a worthy competitor and stands up well in the rankings. In the category of infrastructure, while Oconee had fewer total sites than Anderson or Pickens, it had five certified sites where Anderson and Pickens had none. Oconee also had a greater percentage of sites with interstate frontage and rail access; impressive considering how much less interstate frontage Oconee county has in comparison to Anderson County. As previously discussed, in the realm of educational attainment, Oconee rises to the top of Group 2. In this comparison, Oconee measures up to and exceeds Anderson and Pickens, matching Pickens with 22% of the population having a Bachelor’s Degree, and beating Anderson with only 19% of the population having a Bachelor’s Degree. Oconee again exceeds both Anderson and Pickens with a greater percentage of the population being high school graduates. SAT scores for Oconee County rank slightly ahead of Anderson, while being right behind Pickens. Oconee SAT scores, however, have been trending up based on the past five years of tracked data, and stand out as the best of the Group 2 counties.
Overall, Oconee County’s rankings are high amongst peers in Group 2, and remain competitive with those of Anderson and Pickens Counties, both in Group 1. With fewer obstacles than many other Group 2 counties, and strategically located between Charlotte, NC and Atlanta, GA, Oconee County is poised to be at the forefront to attract, retain, and develop business and industry now and in the future.
Emily Hodge is an economic development specialist at the Oconee Economic Alliance, which is a public-private nonprofit effort to accelerate job creation and capital investment, increase per capita income, diversify the local tax base and generate awareness of Oconee County as a business location. To learn more visit www.InvestOconeeSC.com.