Myths About Charleston’s Economy

Port of Charleston

June 29, 2017

By: Jacki Renegar

A few “urban myths” about the local economy have been circulating around the Charleston region lately. With so many recent economic “wins,” it’s hard to stay up to date with the facts as the rumors fly.  So, we’re going to dispel a few for you.

Myth #1 – There can’t possibly be enough labor left in the Charleston area for any other employers – existing or new!

Fact: The Charleston area labor force is growing 4X faster than the U.S. 12,000 new people are moving here each year, and two-thirds of them are prime workforce age (18-44).  This growth will continue to help us fill new technical jobs in the region and talent gaps.


Myth #2 – The Charleston metro’s low unemployment rate (3.1% in April) means we don’t have enough labor for companies to locate or expand here.

Fact:  This is where it’s important to think about both the percentage and the total number.  Though the unemployment rate may be low, the actual number of unemployed is still a pretty large pool of people.  The Charleston area’s labor force is nearly 380,000 so the number of unemployed is currently around 12,000-13,000. And beyond that, the region is continuously adding to the pool of potential workers with 16,000 annual graduates from local high schools and colleges, who often start out as part of the unemployed pool.


Myth #3 – Charleston is only importing talent. There’s nothing going on to develop the local workforce pipeline.

Fact: While we will always have more to do, many great initiatives exist throughout the region to prepare people for local jobs. Career Academies and Youth Apprenticeships are helping build the skill set that employers need by partnering local businesses with high schools in each of the three counties and preparing 14,000+ students.  Every major local college and university currently has construction underway and new curricula being added in response to local employers’ call for added workforce in the IT, advanced manufacturing, life sciences, and other fields currently in high demand. And ReadySC is consistently offering pre-hire training as it screens and interviews people for new area jobs.


Myth #4 – When competing with other metros for companies to locate new or expanding facilities, Charleston primarily competes against other areas in South Carolina or maybe the Southeast US.

Fact:  The Charleston metro regularly competes on a national and global stage.  Recently, companies have compared Charleston with metros like Phoenix, Austin, Orlando, Detroit, Seattle, Nashville, and several cities in Mexico.  More and more often, our competition is much larger by population.


Myth #5 – Sites and buildings in Charleston have become too expensive; and besides there are no buildings left now for new and expanding companies.

Fact:  The Charleston region offers a wide variety of properties that can meet nearly any cost sensitivity. Land sales at business parks across the region have ranged from $6/sf range up to $14/sf. These are actual sales, not list prices. Currently more than 451,000 sq ft of new office space and 3.2 million sq ft of industrial space are under construction, according to Q1 2017 market reports from area commercial real estate firms.


Myth #6 “Charleston is not investing in infrastructure to support growth.”

 Fact: Recent, current and planned infrastructure expansions include the nearly $200 million Charleston International airport terminal renovations and expansion; $2.2 billion in capital improvements and infrastructure development underway by the Port of Charleston; and more than $3 billion in interstate upgrades planned for the next 10 years supporting all three counties in the Charleston metro.

We hope you’ll help dispel these myths by sharing this info with your colleagues and contacts. There’s a lot of opportunity for business and talent in Charleston | SC | USA.


Contact Us:

Jacki Renegar
Research Analyst
[email protected]

Back To The Top