BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina contributes $4.8 billion a year to the S.C. economy, according to a study released Thursday. "It is rare for one organization to have such a large impact on a local economy," states the report, conducted by the University of South Carolina's Moore School of Business. The insurance and technology giant's economic impact eclipses that of some whole sectors in the state, including information services and utilities, said Joey Von Nessen, the USC economist who conducted the report. The results were a bit surprising, Von Nessen said. BlueCross' impact exceeds USC's own $4.1 billion-a-year economic impact. But it is less than the $7.1 billion a year in economic activity generated by Shaw Air Force Base, Fort Jackson and McEntire Joint National Guard Base, according to previous studies. "We know that BlueCross is one of the largest employers in the state and that their impact would be far-reaching," he said. "We were surprised at the impact that they had." The study included the company's direct impact and also its ripple effect throughout the economy, including the money spent by its employees in the community and hiring done by other businesses that serve BlueCross or its employees. "When BlueCross hires a worker, they go out and they buy things," Von Nessen said. "A lot of it gets spent right here in the state, everything from a flat-screen TV to a new house or a new car and groceries." That, in turn, creates additional demand for retail, restaurant and professional workers. The majority of BlueCross' impact is in metro Columbia, the report said. But the company also affects other regions throughout the state, including Greenville, Charleston, Camden, Myrtle Beach and Florence. "(BlueCross) also makes significant contributions to the local areas of South Carolina where each of its six branches are located," the report says. Among the findings: --In 2010, the company employed 10,000 people either directly or through private contractors. Another 26,324 jobs in the state can be directly attributed to the company's presence. --The company accounts for $1.3 billion in personal household income in South Carolina. --About 76.6 percent of the company's total workforce is in Columbia, which leads to a total annual economic impact on the capital city of $3.5 billion. While best known as a health insurer, BlueCross has almost 50 companies under its company umbrella. It also is a technology center with internal and external data-hosting centers. "In December, we celebrated our 65th anniversary, which was a milestone signifying not only longevity but stability, even in a challenging economy," David Pankau, BlueCross president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. "While most people think of the organization as a health plan, the diversification of our enterprise and strength of our technology platform are key factors also in our ability to create good-paying jobs for South Carolinians." ___ Visit The State (Columbia, S.C.) at www.thestate.com