Big opportunities and significant challenges.
That’s the best way to sum up the 2015-2016 Economic Forecast report released today by the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce.
This year’s version of the annual report features a venerable smorgasbord of positive economic indicators for the Charleston metro region, as well as a stark warning of the need to invest in key priorities, such as infrastructure and workforce development, to keep up with the area’s growth.
"With the emergence of top international companies such as Boeing, Google, Mercedes, Amazon, BMW and now Volvo, the Charleston region is much more diversified," said Mary Graham, Chief Advancement Officer for the Charleston Metro Chamber. "This diversification has created a magnitude of opportunities along with thousands of jobs.”
The report predicts that job growth in the region will increase by more than 21,000 net new jobs during the next two years. With that job growth will come a decrease in unemployment, with the chamber forecasting a 4.9 percent unemployment rate by the end of 2017.
While those jobs are no doubt a positive sign for the region, they bring new priorities for area policymakers and businesses.
“We must now focus on ensuring we have a talent pipeline to fill these positions as well as proper infrastructure that allows our residents to travel our roads safely and our businesses to efficiently transport goods and services,” said Graham.
The 25th annual forecast report was released during a conference held today at the Charleston Area Convention Center. The event also featured an address by Katarina Fjording, vice president for purchasing and manufacturing at Volvo Car Group. Fjording discussed Volvo’s plans and vision for its new facility near Ridgeville, SC, which will be the company’s first American factory.
In addition to the jobs forecast, the report showed that 2015 saw single family home permits increase 9.1 percent over 2014, with a decline in multi-family permits. The report forecasts slow growth for multi-family construction in 2016.
Residential housing sales are expected to grow in 2016 and 2017, with the chamber forecasting a 6 percent increase in the number of sales in each of the next two years.
According to the report, total retail trade in the metro region went up by 5.3 percent in 2014 and that growth is stall in 2016, followed by a moderate increase in 2017.
The report also highlighted the continued increased in container growth for the South Carolina Ports Authority, an increase in passenger volume at the Charleston International Airport, and growth in both tourism and attendance at local museums and attractions.
The full 2015-2016 Economic Forecast report can be viewed in its entirety at charlestonchamber.net/economicforecast.
During the coming weeks, Palmetto Business Daily will feature a series of articles and interviews with area business leaders to take a closer look at each facet of the report, and the opportunities and challenges the forecast means for local families and businesses.