Charleston must feel like it can’t win for losing.
No, I’m not talking about the Civil War.
I’m talking about the brutal battle everyone faces for positive economic development.
And that battle up the shoreline should be setting off alarms in the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Hardeeville corridor, where a tsunami of growth is poised to create gridlock.
As great as the Charleston economy is, Boomtown is losing in two areas that are crucial to the quality of life: affordable housing near work and traffic congestion.
Charleston’s 2017 Regional Economic Scorecard shows a community the entire world would kill to be.
But let’s start by admiring the fact that three counties work together on this long-term examination of regional economic indicators. If the lower end of the Lowcountry wants a place to start catching up, it’s right there.
Up there, all three counties participate in something they call One Region Global Competitiveness Strategy.
All three of those Charleston-area counties are in the same boat to sink or swim together, and they’re smart enough to know it and act on it — together.
Now, for the salivating points in the economic scorecard, which measures progress since 2005, I’m going to use some of the highlights pointed out by Dave Munday in the Post and Courier:
▪ Gross regional product, per capita, up 30 percent.
▪ Exports as a percent of gross regional product, up 12 percent.
▪ Advanced industries employment, up 21 percent.
▪ Average annual pay, up 36 percent.
▪ Number of engineering degrees, up 61 percent in the last five years.
▪ Computer and science degrees, up 198 percent in the last five years, twice as fast as the national average.
▪ Increased venture capital is coming to bear in Charleston’s digital corridor.
Those are benchmarks that everyone wants. Charleston’s successes put it in the same conversation with top dogs, such as Austin, Seattle and Raleigh.
The warning to Beaufort and Jasper counties, where more and more subdivisions and commercial development are coming, is that gridlock and affordable housing need to be addressed now.
What, exactly, have Beaufort and Jasper counties done together, along with the S.C. Department of Transportation, to avoid the coming gridlock?
And remember the old adage: You can’t pave your way out of this mess.
Charleston is learning that if people could afford to live near their jobs, traffic congestion would decrease.
It also is learning, according to people quoted in Munday’s story, that they talk about these problems year after year without actually moving to action.
Beaufort and Jasper counties are at a moment of reckoning and a time for action.
The greatest economic development plan in the universe will not fix what’s coming. That is up to us. Now.