Two years ago, the mending economy was still in a fragile state. A year ago, it was characterized as stabilizing.

Other news from 2013


FAA grounds all Boeing 787 flights after battery fires break out on two jets.

Charleston's Greystar Real Estate Partners strikes a deal to buy 8,000 rental units for $1.5 billion in a venture with Goldman Sachs.

Food Lion announces it will close a store in West Ashley.


JetBlue Airways starts service in Charleston.

The longshoremen's union and shipping companies come to terms on a new contract, averting strikes in Charleston and other East Coast ports.

Books-a-Million closes in West Ashley.


Belk says it will nearly double the size of its Mount Pleasant Towne Centre store.


Boeing 787s resume passenger flights after the company devises a fix for overheating batteries.

Heavy-equipment giant Caterpillar to close 280-worker Summerville plant in 2014, citing a decline in orders.

Swedish retailer H&M announces it will open on King Street in downtown Charleston. (It opens Dec. 19.)

Masters Inn in Mount Pleasant is razed to make way for a Hilton Garden Inn.


Kiawah Partners is sold in a deal valued at about $360 million. The buyer is Charlotte-based South Street Partners and other backers.

SCE&G says it will close two coal units at its Canadys Station near Walterboro.

A 170-room hotel is announced for Meeting and Huger streets in Charleston.

A 185-room hotel moves forward on the site of the former county library in downtown Charleston.


Allbritton Communications says it will sell local ABC affiliate WCIV-TV to Sinclair Broadcast Group.


Charleston Place announces $30 million in renovations.

Santee Cooper OKs the sale of $1.8 billion in bonds to refinance debt and fund investments in nuclear power. The amount is a record for a state agency in South Carolina.


Citadel Mall's owners face foreclosure for missing payments on a $75 million loan.

Southern Season specialty grocer opens in Mount Pleasant, its first store outside of its home base of Chapel Hill.

The $80 million Midtown project breaks ground in downtown Charleston for a hotel, shops and offices.

Daimler Vans to add 60 jobs and invest $4.6 million in its North Charleston factory.

Kindred Healthcare sells its 94-bed Mount Pleasant rehabilitation hospital to Vibra Healthcare.


Most of the U.S. government shuts down for two weeks over bickering about the Affordable Health Care Act and the budget.

The real estate industry frets over looming spike in flood insurance rates.

Kmart says it will close its Mount Pleasant store after a 35-year run.

Drive-shaft maker IFA Rotorion announces $25 million expansion in North Charleston.

Greenwood Communities says it's selling The Ponds, a 1,950-acre development in Summerville, to Kolter Acquisitions.


Trident Technical College announces plans for $79 million aeronautical center to train workers for Boeing jobs.

The final Blockbuster video stores in the area to be closed, owner says.

Southcoast Financial Corp. marks 10 years as a Nasdaq-listed company.

Palmetto Railways holds the first public meeting about a $180 million railyard on the old Navy Base. The 90-acre facility would serve a new shipping terminal.


MeadWestvaco sells all of its forestland, including 175,000 acres in South Carolina, to Plum Creek Timber for $869 million. Plum Creek also becomes a partner in East Edisto and other local MeadWestvaco developments.

Nucor shuts down its Huger mill for three weeks to make upgrades that will enable it to make a wider, higher-grade type of steel.

The Boulevard, a $40 million mixed-use development, opens in Mount Pleasant.

In 2013, the patient seems to have turned the corner, though it's not quite back to full strength.

The long-suffering housing market began putting up stout sales figures over the past year. Also, the jobless rate fell sharply. And it seemed as if a month didn't go by without heavyweight Boeing Co. announcing some notable investment in the region.

As 2013 winds down, here's a recap of some of the events and developments that shaped the local economy this past year - and could reshape it for years to come.

Abigail Darlington, John McDermott, Tyrone Richardson and Warren Wise of The Post and Courier contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed.


Top newsmaker Boeing South Carolina closed the year on a high note by securing another 468 acres for future expansion in North Charleston.

Just exactly what it will do with the property at and adjacent to Charleston International Airport it's not yet said, though the company recently submitted a revised but preliminary site plan for its newly enlarged campus that shows: 3.4 million square feet of newly built enclosed space; parking spaces for nine more Dreamliners; and a second 787 production line at its existing final assembly plant.

The highlight came in April, when Boeing committed to add 2,000 more jobs and invest another $1 billion in South Carolina by 2020 in exchange for $120 million in state bond proceeds to help it acquire and prepare land. It currently employs 6,600 in the region, up from virtually none a decade ago.

The planemaker also announced its first investments in the region not tied to the 787 program.

It broke ground on a propulsion center to build engine inlet parts for the 737 MAX, while also announcing plans to add 400 jobs at a manufacturing technology center and engineering for the 777X.


All eyes in the local retail trade were on a surprise three-way buying and selling spree featuring two big supermarket chains and one smaller operator.

At the center of the action was Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co., which began building a 100-store business that dated back to its formation in Charleston in 1947.

Citing bruising competition, the hometown business made a major retreat. The Pig announced its decision in September to shed 29 corporate-owned supermarkets, including nearly its entire fleet of Charleston area locations. The buyers were two of its larger rivals, Bi-Lo and Harris Teeter.

That was followed by the Pig's announcement that it was shutting down a couple of local stores not included in the sales, as well as its warehouse in North Charleston and the 612,000-square-foot distribution center near Summerville.

The partial dismantling of the local chain with the catchy "Local since forever" tagline reflected the wave of consolidation that's been rippling through the industry and making it tougher for the little guys to survive.


Charleston International was a hub of activity in 2013.

While the Air Force wrapped up a $40 million overhaul of the main runway, work crews dug into a $189 million overhaul of the airport's aging main passenger terminal.

Also, the state's busiest airport added another notch to its belt by landing service from JetBlue Airways in February, two years after attracting Southwest Airlines.

By introducing more competition to the market, the two carriers have helped bring fares down since early 2010 by 20 percent to an average of $395 for a round-trip ticket.

The airport also saw its share of controversy as longtime director Sue Stevens quit and threatened legal action over sex discrimination, triggering an ongoing federal and state probe related to construction contracts.

State Sen. Paul Campbell, a retired Alcoa executive, stepped into the airport's top executive staff position.


When talking technology firms in Charleston, Blackbaud Inc. typically commands its share of attention as one of the oldest, biggest and most important local employers in that industry.

Not so much in 2013.

This year, another Daniel Island software company, Benefitfocus, took center stage.

The homegrown business launched its long- awaited initial public offering in September, raising more than $70 million that will help fund its growth plans.

Its encore to the IPO turned out to be the biggest-ever expansion by a tech firm based in the city of Charleston: Benefitfocus announced plans this month to invest $60 million to triple the size of its corporate campus and create 1,200 local jobs.

The company already is a big high-tech employer. It develops software products that employees can use to compare, sign up for and manage their workplace benefits, such as medical coverage.

The company has noted the potential market for its products and services is huge. Of 18,000 large U.S. employers it is targeting, fewer than 400 are on the company's software platform.

"It's a long runway," CEO Shawn Jenkins said.


The Port of Charleston saw a surge in business in 2013, though the gains possibly were overshadowed a tad by a shout-out on the "Tonight" show from the nation's commander in chief.

Increased demand from the export side helped pump up the volume of containerized and break-bulk goods handled at the State Ports Authority's terminals.

That, coupled with efforts to grab more market share from rival ports, made plans to deepen Charleston Harbor even more urgent, maritime officials said this year.

The Army Corps of Engineers is studying the feasibility of dredging the local shipping lane to 50 feet from 45 so it can handle longer, heavier cargo vessels. Its review is to be completed by September 2015.

The harbor depth issue drew some national attention, thanks to Vice President Joe Biden and his boss. Biden toured the port in September, not long after President Barack Obama singled out Charleston's need for federal dredging dollars during an interview with NBC talk-show host Jay Leno.

As for the big ships, they've already become frequent visitors at the port, as long as the tide is high enough.


What's not to love about Charleston? For the third year in a row, readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine dubbed the Holy City the No. 1 tourism destination in the country and one of the top destinations in the world.

Meanwhile, more plans have been set forth for new hotels on the peninsula and beyond, and the state tourism industry in general has reported its strongest performances this year since before the last recession.

Hotel occupancy in Charleston County is up by 1.5 percent, even though there are more lodgings competing for guests than last year. This suggests the tourism pie is getting bigger. And as demand increases, so go the rates.

Real estate

Home sales in the Charleston region outperformed expectations in 2013, to the relief of sellers and agents everywhere.

The combination of pent-up demand along with cheap money and lower prices, at least compared to prerecession levels, resulted in strong sales.

The Charleston Trident Association of Realtors reported that 11,801 residences have changed hands at a median price of $206,000 through November. That's a 22 percent gain in transaction volume and an 8 percent increase in the median price.

The last time the numbers approached those levels in Charleston was 2007, right before the last recession kicked in.

But it isn't all blue skies ahead for the residential sales industry.

Among the issues that could derail the recovery are rising mortgage rates and the looming spike in federal flood insurance rates.


The banking business continued to regain its health and at the same time consolidate, as demonstrated by the industry's biggest merger in South Carolina: the $447 million buyout of First Federal and its North Charleston-based parent company by the expansion-minded SCBT Financial of Columbia.

Few saw this marriage coming. The deal was particularly noteworthy locally because First Federal had remained independent for nearly eight decades and grew to become the largest and oldest lender headquartered in the region. Its new dance partner also has been around since the Great Depression.

The combination created the fifth-largest bank in South Carolina that plans to get bigger. CEO Robert Hill sees a prolonged shakeout ahead for the industry, estimating that the number of U.S. banks could shrivel by more than 40 percent.

"There will be people who will be looking for partners, and we want to be a partner of choice," he said earlier this year.


The market for job seekers in South Carolina steadily improved in 2013.

In November, the unemployment rate dropped to 7.1 percent, its lowest point since August 2008.

Also, the number last month was the closest that the Palmetto State's unemployment level had been to the corresponding national rate of 7.0 percent for November in more than a decade.

November also marked the first time since July 2008 that South Carolina's total employment was more than 2 million.

The state's come a long way from January 2010, when its jobless rate peaked at 12.5 percent.