The big picture

Billy Chubb, takes orders at the Idle Hour Cafe that has been in the same East Montague Avenue location for 36 years.

With great business news coming out of the city all the time, it helps to take a step back and get a clear look at how all the jobs, business expansions and amenities fit together for North Charleston.

For a broader look at the town’s economic power and appeal, we turned to Charleston County Economic Development Director J. Steven Dykes. Dykes is responsible for implementing the county’s economic development mission for business recruitment, business retention and expansion and improvement of the local business climate. He painted a vibrant picture of the city’s thriving economic landscape and offered advice on what the area can do sustain the growth.

What assets make North Charleston an attractive place to do business?

North Charleston is centrally located within the tri-county region at the crossroads of I-26 and I-526 and hosts a sizable share of the region’s population. This ever-expanding

population fuels a healthy increase in workforce growth, as well as unparalleled retail opportunities. North Charleston benefits from the intermodal transportation assets of the road network, along with national and international linkages via rail infrastructure and port facilities; (these resources) are making it a mecca for exporting manufacturers and distributors. It also boasts robust telecommunications service, which is appealing to the many defense-related firms supporting SPAWAR. The quality of place inherent in its neighborhoods, as well as its vibrant entertainment and arts scene, supports a quality of life, which is a magnet to people of all ages.

What areas are North Charleston’s main competition when the city is pursuing new businesses?

In a global economy, North Charleston competes with the entire world when pursuing aerospace and automotive supplier businesses. Port towns on the Atlantic Coast are natural competitors for port-driven manufacturing and distribution companies in many cases. Technological opportunities, on the other hand, bring tech areas such as Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Boston, or Research Triangle into the competitive mix.

Long-term, what kinds of industries do you and the Charleston County Economic Development Department hope to encourage to set up shop in North Charleston?

We aggressively pursue aerospace companies, automotive suppliers and technology companies to set up shop in North Charleston and elsewhere across Charleston County. North Charleston enjoys strong competitive advantages, with Boeing and Daimler Vans as anchors, and with an abundance of centrally located industrial land available in the Palmetto Commerce Park corridor. North Charleston is also located immediately adjacent to the SPAWAR complex, and it has also begun the process of helping young technology entrepreneurs with start-up enterprises there.

What can our city and region do to continue to attract businesses to North Charleston and to retain businesses?

Safeguarding and improving the business climate will be a key factor. Road infrastructure is a major issue right now and finding a solution will be necessary to preserve and expand upon the incredible business coups our area has already garnered. Development of our workforce for both advanced manufacturing and technology jobs will ensure opportunities keep coming. Lastly, educational advances at the K-12 level, along with a greater variety of engineering and IT courses at the graduate level here in Charleston, will be the keys to sustaining a talent pipeline that keeps us in the national forefront of mid-tier cities.

What do you think North Charleston residents needs to know about the business growth in their city?

Residents of North Charleston might be truly surprised to know the sheer width and depth of their business community; because

it comes as a surprise to many people I speak to. This is the only city of which I am aware of that hosts both an aerospace OEM (original equipment manufacturer) in Boeing, as well as an automotive OEM in Daimler Vans. North Charleston also hosts a “who’s who” of paper-makers, oil, chemical and other bulk distributors. In that same town, on the other hand, is a vibrant technology sector centered around SPAWAR and a tourism sector focused on the coliseum, Performing Arts Center and Convention Center. AAI Pharma performs pharmaceutical manufacturing there, while Cummins builds the turbo-charged engine for the Dodge Ram pickup truck. The InterTech Group runs its worldwide operations from its national headquarters, while ships are refitted at the old Naval Base. North Charleston leads the state in gross retail sales, with areas like Northwoods Mall, upper Rivers Avenue and Tanger Outlet Mall. In the emerging Park Circle area, a plethora of small businesses, restaurants and shops are emerging, and the city now boasts several craft breweries.

It is truly a diverse economy that is getting more so all of the time.