by Lisa Matte
Alive with history and economic growth, there's something special about Carolina's Low Country.
Like the Energizer Bunny, Charleston just keeps going and going and going. Founded in 1670 by one-third of a flotilla that set sail from England the previous year - a severe storm caused the wreck of one boat and forced another to land in Bermuda - the South Carolina city has endured more than its share of calamity in the ensuing decades, including a small pox epidemic, a cattle plague, yellow fever, hurricanes, an earthquake, at least four major fires, not to mention the ravages of the Revolutionary and Civil wars.
Through it all, America's Most Historic City has survived and thrived. Today, Charleston is widely considered one of the most beautiful cities in the United States, described by some as a living museum due to its abundance of well-preserved historic architecture. As such, it is also among the country's most visited cities. More than 4 million annual visitors spend an average of $225 per person per day on accommodations, food and beverages, sightseeing and shopping for a total annual impact of $4.48 million resulting in an estimated 82,055 direct and indirect visitor-related jobs.
Located in Carolina Low Country - a sliver of a region defined by Wikipedia as South Carolina's coastal counties, generally south of the North Carolina border and north of the Savannah River, including the South Carolina Sea Islands - the greater Charleston area encompasses about 100 square miles, while the city itself is confined to eight square miles. That's about one-third the acreage of Manhattan, but size isn't everything.
Within its limited confines, Charleston offers access to world-class parks, cultural attractions, festivals and recreational opportunities. There's an attraction here that has not gone unnoticed. In less than 10 years, the population of Charleston has increased from 80,414 to more than 104,000. This is also a city where the promise of employment is a draw. Its top employers include the Medical University of South Carolina, State Ports Authority, Roper St. Francis Hospital Group, Charleston Place and Piggy Wiggly Carolina.
Plus, the city of Charleston is the only federally designated renewal community in South Carolina. As such, businesses locating or expanding within its boundaries are eligible for numerous federal tax incentives that range from employment credits to capital gains incentives. Plus, state tax exemptions for new or expanding manufacturing facilities and corporate headquarters apply for projects that meet eligibility requirements. Additionally, there is a negotiable fee in lieu of property taxes for industries expanding or locating in South Carolina.
Perhaps most appealing to businesses, Charleston is connected by road, rail, air and water to points across the country and around the world. Home to the fourth-largest container port in the United States, Charleston handles 1.6 million TEUs annually. (TEU is an international cargo container measuring unit that stands for 20-foot equivalent. Containers, no matter how long, are measured in 20-foot lengths, so a 20-foot-long container is 1 TEU; a 40-foot-long container is 2 TEUs, etc.) The Port of Charleston also boasts 1.25 million square feet of warehouse space and 12,545 linear feet of berthing space with 21 container cranes. Charleston also is served by a comprehensive highway network, connecting it to I-95 just 52 miles away. Charleston International Airport (CHS) serves more than 1.6 million passengers annually with a schedule of more than 120 incoming and outgoing flights per day. Continental Airlines, US Airways, Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines and United Airlines provide passenger service to national and international destinations. Six private airports in the region accommodate corporate and private air travel. Mass transit, provided by the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority, serves approximately 13,000 passengers per day on 23 routes.