A new scorecard measuring economic and quality of life standards gives the Charleston region mostly average or below grades compared to scores for eight other high-growth metro areas nationwide.
The "Regional Economic Scorecard" issued by the Charleston Regional Development Alliance and the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce highlights dozens of statistics that measure where an area excels and what issues need to be addressed to create a more livable and prosperous community.
The Charleston region, for example, received high marks for its number of self-employed workers and small- to medium-sized businesses — first and second, respectively — but finished next-to-last for rental housing costs and the number of households with broadband internet access.
Livability is the Charleston area's biggest concern, with the availability of affordable housing on the decline and traffic congestion rising. More than 4-out-of-10 residents spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs. Also, drivers now spend an average of 51 hours per year in traffic delays, up from 40 hours a year in 2005.
"Growing coastal communities are especially challenged with housing affordability and traffic congestion with only so many places to build and direct traffic flow," the report states. "But higher density alone will not solve these problems. Strategic investments in roads and other multi-modal transit solutions are essential."
The report also provided some good news:
- The annual gross regional product — the value of all goods and services — has increased to $42 billion while exports have topped $4 billion a year;
- Median household income has climbed to $60,000 a year while careers in science and technology fields have grown 12.5 percent since 2013 with average annual pay of $82,000; and
- Venture capital funding has increased 135 percent since 2010.
The report compares Charleston to: Seattle; Austin, Texas; Raleigh, N.C.; Richmond, Va.; Salt Lake City; Jacksonville; and Greenville.