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A yearly “scorecard” that tracks the region's economic progress shows that greater Charleston continues to outperform South Carolina and the nation in some key areas.
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The 2013 report released Thursday also pointed out lingering long-term challenges that need to be addressed “to maintain positive momentum,” such as transportation and education.
“Charleston's regional economy is performing well overall, while also undergoing a significant transformation into a more diversified, knowledge-based economy,” according to the scorecard.
This fourth report from the Charleston Regional Development Alliance and the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce said that tri-county employment growth has risen at twice the U.S. average since 2011.
“All of the region's jobs lost in 2009 have been recovered,” it said. “Unemployment is lower than the national average and dropping at a faster pace.”
Other upbeat indicators show that the value of goods and service produced in the region are up 26 percent, and export values have jumped 33 percent, to $3.9 billion, from 2010 to 2012.
Also, the population continues to expand at three times the U.S. average, and it's expected to swell to 1 million residents by 2029, according to chamber projections.
On a down note, wages in Charleston are 85 percent of the U.S. average in 2011, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics income figures cited in the report.
Most of the hits and misses have been highlighted in the three previous scorecards, which stacks Charleston against six peer regions of similar sizes, such as Greenville and Savannah, and two larger “leading” metropolitan areas with dynamic technology economies: Raleigh and Austin, Texas.
“I think the exciting part is the economic performance of the region,” said Mary Graham, senior vice president of the chamber. “We surpassed the peer metro areas were comparing ourselves against. Now, it's almost like we're in another category,”
That growth comes with a price, she stressed.
“We have some pretty big stuff to tackle,” Graham said.
Chief among them is solving the transportation gridlock puzzle. It will take thoughtful planning, creativity and innovation, as well as new sources of financing.
“We can't pave our way out of it,” Graham said.
Another big issue is ensuring local schools can turn out graduates who can find work in the higher-paying industries the region is seeking to attract, such as aerospace and information technology.
“Were bringing some great jobs into this community,” Graham said. “We want make sure we're not importing people to take those jobs.”
Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.
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