Columbia sees leaner federal government over next several years
COLUMBIA — Columbia leaders are trying to prepare the Midlands for an economy based on a leaner federal government and more white-collar jobs in the private sector.
Other findings Other findings
The report also showed the following projections for Columbia:
Construction employment is expected to grow 70% over the next decade, compared with 42% nationally.
Professional and business services are projected to grow 56%, compared with 37% in the country.
Education and health services are predicted to grow 27%, compared with 16% nationwide.
Leisure and hospitality employment is expected to grow 2.4%, compared with less than 1% nationally.
Manufacturing jobs are expected to grow 3.1%, compared with 7.1% nationally.
“Everyone is rather bullish on the economy here in the Midlands, but I think nationally we’re seeing people come out of this Great Recession and focus on getting people back to work,” Mayor Steve Benjamin said. “We are aggressively seeking to attract more corporate headquarters, more white-collar jobs and make sure people are prepared for these jobs in the new economy.”
Columbia is projected to lose 16 percent of its federal jobs over the next 10 years as the overextended federal government trims down, according to a new report from IHS Global Insight, prepared for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which is holding a meeting on workforce skills this week in Dallas.
Nationally, the country is expected to shed 11 percent of its federal workforce during that period, the report says.
“We expect the federal government to scale back. We understand it’s necessary. We want to make sure it is strategic,” said Benjamin, who attended a meeting last week in Washington to talk to federal leaders about cutting the budget in a way that doesn’t devastate communities such as Columbia.
If Congress cannot come to a deal for cutting the federal budget, automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion — half to the military and half to domestic spending — will be triggered Jan. 1 because of last year’s debt- ceiling standoff and the failure of a congressional “supercommittee” to make deficit reductions.
The effects of those cuts could be devastating, especially in a community like Columbia that has a hefty military presence.
Fort Jackson in Columbia, McEntire Joint National Guard Base in Lower Richland and nearby Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter pump a combined $7.1 billion a year into the Midlands economy, Benjamin said.
Columbia’s goal is to become less dependent on federal jobs by boosting private-sector employment, Benjamin said.
Overall, Columbia’s employment is expected to rise 17 percent in the next 10 years, outperforming the country’s projected 13 percent increase.
Columbia will continue to partner with the state technical school system to prepare residents for jobs in industries that are thriving in the region, such as the insurance-technology sector, Benjamin said. And leaders will continue trying to recruit a variety of industries, he added.
“This is a period where the South in general is going to see some significant growth. People see a very attractive place for investing. The quality of life is high, the cost of living is low,” Benjamin said. “We’re encouraged.”