South Carolina's principal industry beginning in the 1880s was textiles, but many textile mills were closed during the 1970s and early 1980s because of the importation of cheaper textiles from abroad. The economic slack was made up, however, by the establishment of new industries, especially paper and chemical manufactures, and by increasing foreign investment in the state. Overseas investments totaled $17 billion in South Carolina in 1997, or more than half of total industrial investment in the state. Principal overseas investment came from Switzerland, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Japan. South Carolina's major manufacturing centers are concentrated north of the fall line and in the piedmont. The total value of shipments for manufactured goods in 1997 was $72 billion. In 1997, Sonoco Products was the only Fortune 500 company headquartered in South Carolina.
Earnings of persons employed in South Carolina increased from $56.7 billion in 1997 to $60.4 billion in 1998, an increase of 6.5%. The largest industries in 1998 were services, 21.9% of earnings; nondurable goods manufacturing, 14.4%; and state and local government, 13.6%. Of the industries that accounted for at least 5% of earnings in 1998, the slowest growing from 1997 to 1998 was nondurable goods manufacturing, which increased 3.3%; the fastest was wholesale trade (5.0% of earnings in 1998), which increased 10.0%.