Charleston, South Carolina

Tops for Tourism and Transportation

The county seat of South Carolina, Charleston is the state’s oldest and second largest city with an estimated population of more than 124,000. It is a major tourist destination, with numerous hotels, restaurants and shopping. The city was named a top 25 arts destination by AmericanStyle magazine and boasts many historic buildings, museums and attractions including the Exchange and Provost, the Gibbes Museum of Art, and the Nathaniel Russell House. In addition, Charleston offers various sports teams such as the Charleston Battery, a professional soccer team and the Charleston River Dogs, a minor league baseball team.

The city’s institutions of higher education include The College of Charleston, The Citadel, The Charleston School of Law and The Medical University of SC, as well as The Art Institute of Charleston and the only college in the country that offers bachelors degrees in the building arts, The American College of the Building Arts.

Charleston’s transportation system is served by many modes, making travel and shipping convenient. It is home to the Charleston International Airport, which shares runways with the Charleston Air Force Base, and highways such as U.S. Routes 17, 52 and 78 along with I-26, I-526 and SC 7, 30, and 61. The city also has two bus systems, operated by the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) and the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Rural Transportation Management Association (BCD-RTMA, commonly called the TriCounty Link). And the Port of Charleston, behind tourism, is one of the leading sources of the city’s revenue.

The Green Plan

Charleston is taking great measures to ensure a greener future. In 2005, Mayor Joseph R. Riley, Jr. signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement with the intent to reduce CO2 emissions seven percent below the 1990 levels by 2012. In 2006 alone, levels were lowered by 19,000 tons through energy efficient lighting, enhanced efficiency heating and air conditioning systems and low flow water devices in City buildings. In addition, Charleston is in the process of streamlining its city fleet vehicles—by increasing the hybrid fleet and converting to biodiesel-compatible vehicles—and switching to energy efficient LED traffic and exit signs.

Charleston was one of five cities in the U.S. selected for the Green Business Challenge (GBC), a voluntary 12-month program to improve the environmental performance of commercial and institutional buildings and their operations. Key elements include reducing a businesses’ use of energy, waste and water. Participation allows a head start on savings and environmental benefits since the GBC rewards not only reducing waste and consumption, but also incentivizes community involvement and stewardship.

Boeing’s Boom

Groundbreaking took place in November 2009 on Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner Final Assembly plant at its Charleston International Airport property. Expected to be complete in summer 2011 with first product delivery in first-quarter 2012, the 1.1 million square foot structure will be one of only three facilities in the world producing twin-aisle commercial jetliners.

The state offered Boeing $170 million in upfront grants plus multiple tax breaks. Legislation assumes the aerospace giant will invest $750 million and create at least 3,800 new jobs in SC within seven years.

An economic analysis by the Alliance for South Carolina’s Future said that Boeing will add $6.1 billion to the state’s annual economy. The plant is expected to draw related businesses to the area, spending more money and hiring more people. And, local economist Dick Conway estimates that each Boeing job generates spending that supports 1.7 other local jobs—one of the highest “multipliers” of any private-sector employer.

Launch of the new 787 is being closely watched within the aviation world. Unlike most large commercial airplanes, which are made from aluminum, about half of the Dreamliner’s structural components are a mix of epoxies and strong lightweight composite materials, such as graphite that will cut fuel consumption.

Boeing Charleston vice president Tim Coyle said the company considered the area’s business environment, logistics and infrastructure.

Also, in a move that seems to anticipate growth, Boeing asked for, and was given, an option to take over another office complex in the area.

Boeing already makes rear fuselages for the Dreamliner in North Charleston—a factory acquired in 2009—and owns half of Global Aeronautica, a nearby 787 supplier that works on mid-fuselage sections.