Oconee County, A Top Micropolitan
By Daja Dial
After a knockout year last year, Oconee County once again proves it is the “Geography of Opportunity”. In the 2018 POLICOM Strength Ranking, it was ranked the number one micropolitan in the state of South Carolina. A micropolitan is described as a quasi-rural area with an urbanized city, at least one county, and a population greater than 10,000. Oconee’s ranking leads its counterparts like Greenwood, Orangeburg, and Cherokee counties by 128 positions or more. On the national level, Oconee County ranked among the top 200 micropolitans in the country, landing at an impressive 174th. This ranking is almost 100 positions higher than last year and almost 200 positions higher than its 2015 ranking.
POLICOM is an independent economic research firm which specializes in analyzing the “dynamics of local and state economies.” Each year, POLICOM releases a Metropolitan and Mircropolitan Economic Strength Ranking. Strength Ranking is the measure of the “long-term tendency for an area to consistently grow in both size and quality.”
The methodology used to determine the rankings is divided into three groups. Group one analyzes the size, growth, and quality of the micropolitan. The quality of the economy is based on the earnings of all workers within the county and how their earnings influence their standard of living. Group two analyzes how sectors like small business, construction, retail, etc.; reflect the behavior of the economy, with group two being a direct correlation of the economy. This means that as the economy grows these sectors grow, as it declines, these sectors too decline. Group three indicates the existence of a poor economy. Group three analyzes the growth in Per Capita Income Maintenance, Actual Per Capita Income Maintenance, Per Capita Medical Assistance for the Poor, and Actual Per Capita Medical Assistance for the Poor, or more simply Welfare and Medicaid.
As a micropolitan, Oconee County’s ranking is likely due to its successful 2017 year where it gained over $150 million in new investment with over 350 new jobs and saw unemployment rates hover at 17-year lows to go along with a decrease of the poverty by nearly 5% since 2012. These are a few of the accomplishments that helped Oconee County land in the top 30 percentile in the country and number one in the state.
Since the economic strength ranking measures how the economy has behaved and not why, we recognize Oconee’s strength is largely due to the economic momentum occurring within the County and that the Oconee Economic Alliance has ushered in over $430 million in new investment and over 1400 new jobs since 2012.
We recognize that while Oconee County is currently on top, we want to remain there, so as we consistently move the needle forward, we aim to continue to make Oconee County the “Geography of Opportunity” in both South Carolina and in the nation.
Daja B. Dial is the Marketing and Communications Manager of 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.