Posted tagged ‘business’

SC Improved, But Not World Series Material for Business

July 26, 2010

CNBC has just released its ranking of all 50 states according to which is best for business.   Scores for 40 measures of competitiveness slotted South Carolina at #31, between Illinois and Arkansas, which was tied with California.  Texas is first, Alaska last.  Our neighbors, North Carolina and Georgia, finished 4th and 10th, respectively.

South Carolina gained six places since 2009 but continues to be held back in the categories of Education, Economy, and Quality of Life.  Underlying measures negatively affecting the state’s scores include a low concentration of “major” corporations; K-12 test scores, class size, and spending; high crime, and poor health of the population.  Conversely, South Carolina scored well in Cost of Business, Workforce, and Transportation.  Low taxes are cited as a positive.

The Palmetto State’s neighbors outscored it in Technology and Innovation, Business Friendliness, and Access to Capital, in addition to the aforementioned low-scoring categories.  Read more at CNBC’s website here.

Main Street Columbia? Why on Earth…?

May 17, 2010

Public and private investment aiming to rejuvenate Main Street has been significant and sustained for years.  For the record, I am pro-Columbia, so, when business took me to the Columbia area last Wednesday, I took advantage of the opportunity to attend an event titled, “Why Are You Here?”

The event, promoted (and organized?) by the state chapter of the Urban Land Institute, explored the question of Main Street’s identity as a fine and performing arts destination.  The impending relocation of the state’s non-profit cinema, the Nickelodeon, to a once-and-future theater very near the Columbia Museum of Art spurred the discussion. (Click here to see the project.)

The event at the former Fox Theatre was poorly attended, but the enthusiasm of speaking panelists representing the arts was not dampened.  The panel discussed topics ranging from Columbia’s status as a music scene to the attraction of Main Street as a place to set up shop. 

The panelists noted that Columbia is a “tertiary” market for cutting-edge music tours.  Among the reasons: events in Columbia do not draw because the city has no critical mass of nightlife and entertainment venues.  Instead, the city is pegged to draw for popular country music acts and has-beens.  (The exception: innovative jazz.  Go figure.)

Business owners noted Main Street’s unique environment as a reason to invest in the location.  They defended their decision in that their distinctive businesses (exclusive eyewear, acoustic music) necessitate distinctive destinations.  For them, Main Street’s mix of historic buildings and high-rises stands apart – a unique place. 

Recognition of Main Street Columbia as a destination throughout the broader community has been a question mark for at least a couple decades.  Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the city does not seem to have an identity as a strong music scene, with a place on the calendar for innovative acts.  If the metropolitan area’s center is not a destination for its own citizens, how can one expect it to be so for outsiders?

But what of the jazz scene on South Main?  The role of Five Points for nightlife, driven by the college crowd, is long-established. Panelists, moreover, noted the Vista’s niche as a visual arts destination (notably, with some adversarial consternation).  Perhaps Main Street can be the missing link that ties the various districts together, each with a distinct role.  Some leadership seems to exist: staff of the City Center Partnership was in attendance.  One speaker noted the recent election of a forward-thinking mayor (Steve Benjamin).  Their challenge: to reform the image of South Carolina’s capital city as a place and a destination.

Pedestrians Valued on SC’s Most Iconic Drive

May 4, 2010

If you were a business owner, how much would you pay so that your patrons could safely reach your front door?  The answer, in Myrtle Beach at least, is $3,000. 

Sunday’s Charlotte Observer reports that hoteliers along Ocean Boulevard approached the City of Myrtle Beach in search of pedestrian improvements.  The City agreed to split the cost of mid-block pedestrian crossings with them 50/50. 

A mid-block crossing in North Charleston, located where no stop sign or signal exists to pause through-traffic

The improvements are part of a larger effort to make Ocean Boulevard safer and more accessible for everyone.  Bicycle lanes will replace two automobile lanes and a left-turn lane will be introduced. Mid-block crossings are needed for pedestrians because signalized intersections are currently too few and far between.

Myrtle Beach is perhaps fortunate that it could afford to reduce the number of automobile lanes on Ocean Boulevard. City-commissioned studies, according to staff, reported that pedestrians could not safely cross four lanes of traffic on this street even in a crosswalk. Many communities do not have the luxury of spare automobile travel lanes.  The answer to their challenge is good urban design and appropriate engineering, not to throw in the towel.  State law dictates that motorists stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk. A rebuttal that crosswalks should not be provided because too many motorists fail to yield the right of way is akin to arguing for abolishment of speed limits on account of motorists typically driving 5 mph above the posted limit or of turn signal requirements because too few signalize their intentions.

The Myrtle Beach business community and city government concluded their changes are appropriate because Ocean Boulevard is a destination. Getting travelers safely and conveniently to this place is more important than getting motorists through it. Evidence that good urban design is good for business. Good urban design is good for South Carolina.