Our team often fields the question when discussing the Midlands Regional Competitiveness Report, “Well, what would these numbers look like if we just looked at the urbanized area?” As our supporters know, the data in the Competitiveness Report covers the entire Columbia Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which spans Lexington and Richland Counties — but also includes the largely rural counties of Calhoun, Saluda, Kershaw and Fairfield.

In an attempt to better answer that question, our team worked with the team at Parker Poe Consulting, led by EngenuitySC board member Morgan Crapps, to study livability factors in the two most populated counties of our MSA compared to the core counties in our peer and aspirant communities. We evaluated metrics which directly impact residents’ everyday lives, such as commute times, housing affordability and community health. We also took a look at the attractiveness to new residents, as represented by migration patterns.

What does the data tell us? A few key findings:

  • Lexington and Richland Counties are both attractive to new residents, ranking towards the top in net migration between 2010 and 2018. In fact, Lexington County led all secondary counties in net international migration.
  • In a time where broadband access is more important than ever, there is room for improvement – over 18% of Richland County households lacked internet access. That’s why local business leaders are pushing for rapid expansion of rural broadband deployment.
  • Lexington County is one of the fastest-growing “secondary” counties – those we defined as counties with a high population density, but not home to the MSA’s primary city – studied, due in part to the highest score in the Housing Affordability Index (comparing income to housing costs) of any county in the report.

Read the full results of the study here.

A special thanks goes to Parker Poe Consulting for their support of this research.