Charleston Looks to Global Initiatives to Spur Economic Growth

Charleston Looks to Global Initiatives to Spur Economy Growth

During the last two decades, the Charleston metropolitan area has transformed itself from a military and defense-dependent economic area to a more diversified global market. The local economy has benefited from the significant capital investment to expand and deepen the harbor and to create a statewide intermodal system. The region’s economy has experienced strong growth in the manufacturing sector, the multi-billion dollar tourist industry, health care industry, high technology digital sector and the aerospace industry. Exports in the region have been strong and have outperformed most segments with an average growth rate of 12 percent during this period.

A new economic plan developed during the last year by the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, in partnership with other collaborators, was unveiled in early February.  “Attracting and supporting foreign direct investment…is a foundational element of our region’s global competitiveness,” according to the Charleston Metro FDI Plan ( “Our growing evolving economy has created incredible opportunities across the metro, but it also brings new challenges,” states the plan. “To remain globally competitive and sustain our momentum, our regional strategy must also evolve…to attract and support foreign direct investment (FDI).”

The plan was developed as a result of the Charleston metro area’s participation in the Global Cities Initiative (, an in-depth market assessment done by the Brookings Institute and JPMorgan Chase to promote global trade in select U.S. metropolitan regions.  The tri-county region is home to approximately 180 foreign-owned companies which represent 5 percent of private sector jobs, and 32 percent of manufacturing jobs.

The first step to attracting more foreign investment in the local economy will be to take practical steps to address some issues that foreign companies and their employees face when moving to the country, said Jenna Edwards, the alliance’s director of global business development. “The challenges for newcomers can be cultural or practical.  They include getting a driver’s license, enrolling children who may or may not speak English into local schools, and lining up jobs for relocating spouses,” Edwards said in a recent Post & Courier article. “What can we do to ensure they feel welcome and that there’s a place for them here,” she added.  The renewed efforts to improve and focus on corporate hospitality will hopefully encourage future investments by foreign corporations in the Charleston metro area.

Source: Charleston Regional Development Alliance, “Charleston Metro FDI Plan,” February 2017

Source: World Trade Center, Charleston and Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, ”Metro Charleston Export Plan”

Source: Post & Courier, “Charleston’s hospitality focus shifts to foreign firms,” by John McDermott, February 5, 2017

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