Charleston region's economic success earns national recognition, but also poses local challenges

We Stand For Progress Reports Feb. 15, 2019, 10:49am


Charleston and the region's economic success creates certain challenges, particularly linked to housing access and affordability, according to the official tasked with overseeing the city's development.

The three-county region is now ranked the 16th best performing in the nation, up from 22nd in 2017, according to the Milken Institute, a think tank based in Santa Monica, Calif. Cargo growth and investments in the auto industry are largely credited with keeping the city and its environs economically robust and growing.

According to the report, an average of 28 people move to the area every day and the median income is now $76,236, up nearly 30 percent since 2012. One third of workers are employed in retail, education, health services or tourism industries, but there are also a growing number of well-paying jobs in the auto industry, including at the new Volvo factory in Ridgeville.

But the city and area's popularity does present challenges, said Jacob Lindsey, director of Charleston's department of planning, preservation and sustainability,

"This is something we deal with every day," Lindsey said. "We are thrilled because of the robust, diverse economy but very well aware of the challenges."

The city is responding by streamlining the approval of housing in general and affordable housing in particular, and working on redevelopment ordinances so that there is more predictability, Lindsey said. He added that the city and region does not want to build a metaphorical wall to keep people out, and planners are aware that many people benefit from an increase in housing values.

The Milken report concluded that the Charleston area’s diversified economy, including its Boeing plant, will protect it from any upheavals in the national economy. Increasing wages and population should lead to further growth, the report said, but also warned that low- to middle-income families are likely to be squeezed out of the centers of population and businesses.



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