Regional Planning, Activity on the Upswing

“Great planning leads to great results” has increasingly been the philosophy behind successful economic development. That spirit guided last year’s launch of Opportunity Next, the plan facilitated by the CRDA and designed to help boost economic prosperity in the Charleston region.

Numerous signs indicate this region is heading in the right direction – and organizations are aligning their efforts with Opportunity Next’s recommendations.

Case in point: Dorchester County leaders unveiled their first strategic economic development plan. Based on local input, research and insights from professional consultants, the plan sets investment priorities for building infrastructure critical to continued Dorchester Strategic Planeconomic growth.

With water, sewage and roadways in place, the County can maximize the value of its rural land. It can also develop business incubators; which the growing Town of Summerville can support. For more information, visit

Further evidence of a regional push forward is apparent in the Charleston Metro Chamber’s “Accelerate Greater Charleston” initiative. The five-year, $5 million plan focuses on growing the area’s high-tech workforce, providing seed capital, pro-business advocacy, and targeting jobs that are a strategic fit for our area. The alignment with the Opportunity Next regional plan is clear.

As reported in the Post and Courier, these synergistic plans indicate the region is future-proofing its economy. “High-tech…is red-hot right now, and Charleston’s economic development groups want in on the action,” said the paper, which was publicizing the Digital Corridor’s upcoming CODEcamp. (Aspiring programmers will pay $500 to learn computer language from local software gurus.)

“They recognize these cutting-edge industries and skill sets, along with population growth and other uncontrollable macro factors, could transform Charleston from a historic tourist destination into a proper 21st century city,” the article said.

It appears all those code writers, high-tech companies and incubators are going to need space to conduct business. Commercial realtors region-wide decry a general lack of Class A office space. Occupancy has been high for some time (another symptom of the Boeing effect), and the soft economy of the last few years prevented new construction.

Indeed, the vacancy rate for top-quality industrial real estate dropped in 2011 to just 3.2 percent, the lowest in more than a decade (a health rate is 8-10%). New developments are emerging in pockets region-wide, and experts expect improving market conditions, loosened lending, and clear demand will prompt a Class A building boom.

CRDA President & CEO David Ginn told the Post and Courier “It’s an issue that’s on everyone’s mind, but having robust demand for existing industrial space seems like a better situation than having too much space available and not enough demand. “It’s an important balance,” he said.

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