Beaufort News

Lowcountry areas rank among fastest growing on East Coast

Traffic moves up and down the newly widened section of U.S. 278 in this November 2013 file photo of a view east toward the Simmonsville Road intersection.
Traffic moves up and down the newly widened section of U.S. 278 in this November 2013 file photo of a view east toward the Simmonsville Road intersection. Staff photo

The statistical area composed of Beaufort and Jasper counties has the fourth-fastest growing population among metropolitan areas along the East Coast, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

More than 4,570 new residents moved to Beaufort and Jasper counties from July 2012 to July 2013, increasing the area's population to just fewer than 200,000 residents, according to a report released last week.

That represents a 2.4 percent increase in population and ranks the area among the 10 fastest growing coastal populations. The Myrtle Beach area ranked second, and the greater Charleston area ranked seventh, according to report statistics.

Such growth is still a far cry from the boom Beaufort and Jasper counties saw during the previous decade, before the economic downturn, according to Ginnie Kozak, Lowcountry Council of Governments planning director.

From 2000 to 2010, the area averaged 3.5 percent population growth each year, she said. Since 1990, the population has more than doubled, she added.

But that growth happened so fast it was almost out of control, Kozak said.

"Any problems we have now are basically related to the fact that there was just this euphoria that, 'Gosh, people want to live here,'" Kozak said. "It didn't take long though for people to realize that wasn't a sustainable way to keep moving ahead."

Data about the demographics and specific locations of last year's population growth aren't yet available, Kozak said. But it's likely most of the growth took place in the Bluffton area and along U.S. 278, which would match a pattern Kozak said she has detected in the past several years.

Overall, development to support the population is on the rise, as well, Kozak added. The number of building permits issued and sewer connections added -- the building blocks of growth -- has increased, she said.

Local governments must manage growth better than they did during the previous decade, Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka said.

Bluffton has done that since 2005 by tracking population and business numbers and trying to map town growth, she said.

"We're one of the fastest-growing municipalities in the state," she said. "About 95 percent of our town is already master planned, so we, for years, have kind of known what's coming."

This kind of growth probably will continue, Kozak said. Although it may never reach the same fevered pitch again, the growth is an indicator of overall economic health, she said.

"It certainly is no surprise to us to see that growth in our area," said Blakely Williams, president of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce. "I think there are some tremendous opportunities in front of us.

"We haven't quite recovered yet, but we see the economy being steady. That's good news."

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at

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