MARKET INSIGHTS Charleston SC
Commercial real estate offices in Charleston, Columbia and Greenville, South Carolina

South Carolina

Charleston Office
25 Calhoun Street
Suite 220
P.O. Box 610 (29402)
Charleston, SC 29401
USA (Map)
Tel: +1 843 723 1202

Columbia Office
1301 Gervais Street
Suite 600
Columbia, SC 29201
USA (Map)
Tel: +1 803 254 2300

Greenville Office
55 E. Camperdown Way
Suite 200
Greenville, SC 29601
USA (Map)
Tel: +1 864 297 4950

2016 Regional Overview: Charleston, SC

Getting to Know the Region

  • Berkeley County, Charleston County and Dorchester County comprise the Charleston-North Charleston, SC MSA.
  • A strong economy, pro-business environment and efficient logistics collectively support major industries such as aerospace and manufacturing, among others.
  • Population growth is strong as residents and businesses are attracted to the region’s high quality of life and low cost of living.

  • INTERSTATE:
    I-26
    I-95

  • AIR:
    Charleston International Airport (CHS)

  • RAIL:
    CSX
    Norfolk Southern

  • PORTS:
    Port of Charleston
    SC Inland Port (Greer)

Connected to Global Markets

Accessibility to domestic and global markets is becoming a primary factor in site selection for both businesses and residents. Businesses look to cut transportation costs and expand market access, while residents enjoy the many weekend and day trips to nearby cities. Major interstates run through the Charleston region, allowing short drive-time access to Charlotte, NC, Atlanta, GA, Columbia and Greenville, SC, among others.

The region’s airport, Charleston International Airport (CHS), sees more than 1.5 million passengers per year. The airport offers flights from 7 major airlines with non-stop flights to 23 airports and 18 cities in the United States.

South Carolina’s efficient logistics provide companies quick access to suppliers and customers through its ports, rail lines and interstates. South Carolina ports play a vital role in the continued success of the companies investing in the Midland’s industrial market by expediting delivery of imports and exports as well as reducing the cost on the transportation of goods.

Total volume for the Port of Charleston at the fiscal year to date shows a 3.4% increase over the 2015 fiscal year to date. The Port of Charleston continues to grow with no signs of slowing down, as it undergoes the construction of a new terminal in North Charleston and a recently funded deepening of its harbor to 52 feet by 2019.

The location of the inland port extends the reach of the Port of Charleston and its customers beyond South Carolina’s borders. The Inland Port in Greer, South Carolina adds to the connectivity of the state by providing a direct route via a Norfolk Southern rail line to the Port of Charleston. The Inland Port recorded 9,392 rail lifts in August 2016, a 28.3% increase from a year ago. The combined success of the Inland Port and increased demand within South Carolina markets has led the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) to announce plans for a second inland port facility in Dillon County.

Economy and Labor Market

The region’s economy is largely driven by the finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing, manufacturing and professional and business services. Additionally, Charleston continues to rank among the top cities to visit in the nation, driving a strong tourism industry that contributes to the region’s economy.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), gross domestic product (GDP) for the MSA totaled $36.4 billion in 2015, accounting for 18.3% of South Carolina’s total GDP. The finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing sector is strengthening over recent years and contributes to a greater portion of total GDP. In 2015 the sector accounted for 20.8% of total GDP, increasing from 19.4% in 2001. Professional and business services are also playing a greater role in the region’s GDP than they did the past. The sector contributed to 11.7% of total GDP in 2015, up from 9.3% in 2001.

Manufacturing remains strong, accounting for 11.3% of GDP. Recently announced expansions and investments from major aviation and automotive manufacturers will drive the sector’s growth in the upcoming years.

Major Sectors as a Percent of Charleston's GDP (2015)

  • All Industry

  • Finance, Insurance, Real Estate, Rental and Leasing

  • Professional & Business Services

  South Carolina   Charleston-N. Charleston MSA

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, Colliers International Research

Supported by a business-friendly environment, state and local tax incentives, efficient logistics, right-to-work status and a talented labor force, the region has successfully recruited investments from various domestic and foreign companies.

2015 was a significant year, with several major announcements. Volvo and Mercedes-Benz are collectively investing $1 billion and creating 5,300 jobs in the region over the next decade. Between January and October of 2016, $630.5 million in capital investment and 2,688 jobs were announced in Charleston.

Mercedez-Benz Vans, a division of Daimler, announced plans early in 2015 to invest $500 million in a new Sprinter van plant in Charleston and create 1,300 new jobs over the next several years. Construction of the new plant in Charleston County began in 2016. The manufacturer is expanding its facility at 8501 Palmetto Commerce Parkway and will use the new plant to manufacture next-generation Sprinter vans to supply the North American market.

Just two months after Mercedez-Benz Vans made their announcement, Volvo selected South Carolina for its first American manufacturing plant. The $500 million facility will be located in Berkeley County and is expected to create 2,000 new direct jobs over the next decade and up to 4,000 jobs by 2030. The facility will serve to manufacture the latest-generation Volvo S60 sedan model for sale in the U.S. and other markets. Construction is underway at the plant, and Volvo expects to complete the first vehicle at the plant in 2018. Volvo considered over 60 U.S. locations before selecting the Berkeley County site. The Port of Charleston’s strength and experience with automotive exports, the presence of other global automotive manufacturers, a skilled labor force and pro-business environment helped attract Volvo to the region.

2015-2016 Highlighted Capital Investments | Charleston, SC
COMPANY COUNTY INVESTMENT JOBS CREATED INDUSTRY
Mercedes-Benz Vans/Daimler Charleston $500,000,000 1300 Automobile Manufacturing
Volvo Cars of North America Berkeley $500,000,000 2000 Automobile Manufacturing
Robert Bosch LLC Dorchester $175,000,000 150 Manufacturing
Blackbaud Berkeley $154,000,000 300 Technology
Luxury Hotel by Bennett Hospitality Charleston $101,000,000 350 Hospitality
Thorne Research, Inc. Berkeley $35,000,000 330 Manufacturing
Gerber Childrenswear LLC Berkeley $33,000,000 45 Logistics
Viva Holdings Group, Inc. Berkeley $28,000,000 200 Rubbers & Plastics Products
Mankiewicz Coatings Berkeley $25,000,000 15 Manufacturing
Comcast Charleston $21,400,000 550 Telecommunications
WABCO Dorchester $17,000,000 50 Automotive Parts Manufacturing
Limehouse Produce Co Charleston $8,300,000 40 Logistics
stoba Berkleye $7,700,000 61 Manufacturing
A&R Bullk Pak Inc. Berkeley $7,500,000 25 Packaging and Distribution

Source: Charleston Regional Development Alliance, South Carolina Department of Commerce, Colliers International

Wage rates are up over recent years given the economic recovery, skilled labor force and competition among employers. Annual wages for all occupations in South Carolina averaged $40,580 in 2015, remaining below the national average annual wage of $48,320.

The annual wage for all occupations in the Charleston MSA averaged $43,560 in 2015. Annual wages vary given skill-level and ranged from approximately $21,930 to $98,180 among major employment sectors. The median hourly wage for all occupations was $16.52 and the average hourly wage for all occupations was $20.94 in 2015.

As of September 2016, approximately 347,400 individuals were employed by a non-agricultural job in the Charleston-North Charleston MSA. Similar to other markets across the United States, the Lowcountry region was adversely affected during the recent economic downtown and lost 28,200 jobs as a result. The economy has since recovered, regaining all jobs lost and creating an additional 44,400 jobs, or 14.7% greater employment than the pre-recession peak of 303,000 jobs in May 2008.

Major employment sectors include manufacturing, trade, transportation and utilities, professional and business services, and education and health services. Trade, transportation and utilities employment made up 18.5% of total non-agricultural employment in September 2016, with 64,000 jobs. Professional and business services accounted for 15.6% of total non-agricultural employment in September 2016, with 54,100 jobs. The sector has been growing over recent years. In September 2005, the sector made up only 12.7% of total employment and employed around 36,100 individuals. Other growing employment sectors include education and health services and leisure and hospitality.

Employment by Sector & Percent of Total Employment
(September 2016)

  • TRADE, TRANSPORTATION & UTILITIES
    64,000; 18.5%

  • PROFESSIONAL & BUSINESS SERVICES
    54,100; 15.6%

  • MANUFACTURING
    27,200; 7.8%

  • GOVERNMENT
    65,100; 18.8%

  • EDUCATION & HEALTH SERVICES
    39,800; 11.5%

  • LEISURE & HOSPITALITY
    44,100; 12.7%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Largest Employers | Charleston, SC
COMPANY NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES INDUSTRY COUNTY
Joint Base Charleston 22,000 Military Charleston/Berkeley
Medical University of South Carolina 13,000 Health Services/Education Charleston
The Boeing Company 8,000 Manufacturing Charleston
Charleston County School District 6,500 Education Charleston
Roper St. Francis Healthcare 5,500 Health Services Charleston
Berkeley County School District 4,300 Education Berkeley
Dorchester County School District II 3,500 Education Dorchester
Trident Health System
2,500 Health Services
Charleston
Walmart Inc.
2,300 Retail Merchandise
Region
College of Charleston
2,200 Education Charleston
U.S. Postal Service
2,000 Government Region
Charleston County
2,100 Government Charleston
Robert Bosch LLC
1,800 Manufacturing Dorchester

Source: Charleston Regional Development Alliance, Colliers International Research

Downtown Charleston is embracing the growing tech industry, which has thus far proven successful in the market. The Charleston Digital Corridor is currently home to Flagship 1 and Flagship 2, which offer non-traditional office space with open floor plans and short-term leases. The Flagship facilities are intended to accommodate new tech companies in their early phases until they are ready to occupy larger, more permanent office space. Flagship 1 launched in 2009 and Flagship 2 launched in 2011. Collectively, the facilities have graduated over 75 companies, motivating plans for Flagship 3. Blackbaud, a philanthropic software company, has invested $154 million for a new 360,000-square-foot office campus. The company will provide office space to philanthropic startup technology companies to foster the growth of the industry in Charleston. The tech industry brings higher-paying jobs to the region and marks significant improvements for the market.

Blackbaud Campus I Rendering

Source: ASD | SKY via Holder Properties

Education

The Charleston region is home to multiple public and private universities, as well as technical college systems, collectively offering training and education programs that support the growing regional labor force.

Charleston Southern University is an independent, Christian liberal arts university.

48 undergraduate majors
8 graduate degree programs

Fall 2014 Enrollment:
Undergraduate: 2,967
Graduate: 400

College of Charleston is a public research university located in Charleston’s downtown.

59 undergraduate majors
19 master’s degree programs

Fall 2014 Enrollment:
Undergraduate: 10,440
Graduate: 1,016

The Citadel’s undergraduate student population makes up the South Carolina Corps of Cadets. The Citadel was recently recognized as the top public college in the South for institutions granting up to a master’s degree, according to U.S. News & World Report, for the fifth consecutive year.

20 undergraduate majors
42 master’s degree programs

Fall 2014 Enrollment:
Undergraduate: 2,763
Graduate: 829

The Medical University of South Carolina is comprised of 6 colleges: Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy.

*South Carolina’s only comprehensive academic medical center.

Fall 2014 Enrollment:
Undergraduate: 293
Graduate: 2,605

Trident Technical College is a a two-year technical college that serves Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties at 9 campuses.

150+ areas of study
11 academic divisions

Fall 2014 Enrollment:
Undergraduate: 16,136

The Charleston region consists of 4 school districts. All school districts received absolute ratings of excellent in 2014. Many schools offer magnet programs and place a strong emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

2014 School District Rankings | Charleston, SC
COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT 2014 ABSOLUTE RATING ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS MIDDLE SCHOOLS HIGH SCHOOLS TOTAL ENROLLMENT
Berkeley 1 Excellent 26 14 8 32,316
Charleston 1 Excellent 42 29 11 46,839
Dorchester 2 Excellent 12 5 3 25,099
Dorchester 4 Excellent 3 2 1 2,243

Source: South Carolina Department of Education

Living Here

The Charleston region provides a high quality of life for families and young professionals alike. The region features rich history and Southern charm, offers various outdoor recreational opportunities, first-class dining and shopping options, as well as various beaches. Year-round festivals include concerts and food, which are sure to be fun for everyone. Downtown is vibrant with restaurants and retail boutiques for daytime entertainment, and features a booming nightlife with bars and a growing brewery scene.

Home sales are strong in South Carolina, with 67,452 between January 2016 and October 2016, a 6.8% increase over the same time period in 2015, according to the South Carolina Realtors Association. As of October 2016, the year to date closed home sales in the Charleston MSA was 14,991 homes, an 8.8% increase from the same time period in 2015. Median home prices are on the rise in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties. The median home price was $239,990 at the end of October, increasing 6% since October 2015.

YTD 2016 Median Home Prices (Jan - Oct)

YTD 2016 Total Closed Home Sales (Jan - Oct)

Median Home Price
Change from 2015

Charleston Trident: +6.0%

Total Closed Home Sales
Change from 2015

Charleston Trident: +8.8%

Commercial Real Estate in Charleston

Commercial real estate is strengthening as the economy improves. Construction starts continue to rise, rental rates are reaching historically-high levels in many markets and vacancy rates are trending down for most property types. South Carolina’s commercial real estate markets closely mirror these national trends and are welcoming significant interest from both users and investors.

  • OFFICE
    369 buildings
    12.3 million SF

  • INDUSTRIAL
    365 buildings
    35.5 million SF

  • RETAIL
    130 centers
    14.9 million SF

  • MULTIFAMILY
    185 complexes
    36,624 units

Based on commercial real estate inventory tracked by Colliers International South Carolina.

Conditions continue to improve for Charleston’s office market, which is experiencing an influx of interest from tenants and investors. Rental rates are soaring and are among some of the highest rates in the Southeast. Tenants are competing for space, as large blocks of contiguous, Class A space are scarce. Construction activity is strong. Demand for space is strong as evidenced by successful pre-leasing for new office space. A growing suburban population will likely draw new office developments to the suburbs as tenants look for space within close proximity to employees.

Charleston’s industrial market has experienced significant growth over recent quarters, with new speculative and build-to-suit construction stronger than it has been in years. Improved logistics, tax incentives and a skilled labor force are attracting companies from a wide array of sectors seeking manufacturing plants as well as distribution and warehouse space. The resulting effect has been a tightening industrial market with increasing rental rates, strong capital investments and significant construction activity.

Activity was strong for Charleston’s multifamily market throughout 2015, and the momentum is continuing through 2016. Occupancy and rental rates are on the rise indicating healthy market conditions. Construction is strong throughout the market as demand from the Generation Y and retiree populations remain strong. The changing preferences of the growing group of renters are shaping the look and feel of new apartment complexes, which sometimes resemble upscale hotels or resorts. New developments are locating in city centers near jobs and entertainment or in proximity to marsh or waterways, providing easy access to outdoor recreation.

The Charleston retail market continues to experience significant interest from national retailers and grocers. Charleston’s culinary scene continues to expand and King Street remains a top retail destination, with rental rates at historical highs. Options for existing quality space is limited, as much of the vacant space is located in older shopping centers or outside of the prime retail intersections. Tenants are competing for space and new construction has been the gateway for many retailers looking to enter or expand in the market. Some retailers are backfilling vacant big boxes, which are being renovated to accommodate new retailers. For instance, DSW Shoe Warehouse, Nordstrom Rack and Kitchen & Company each entered the market by backfilling vacant retail space. The region’s growing population, attractive demographics and strong tourism industry will continue to drive retail development throughout the market.

Commercial Real Estate Growth Cycle: Where the market stands and where it is going.

NEW CONSTRUCTION RENTAL RATE EMPLOYMENT OCCUPANCY

Current real estate conditions are favorable and motivate investment sales, capital investment and new construction. Occupancy and rental rates are increasing across all property types and tenant interest remains strong. Construction is beginning to gain momentum in response to demand but remains limited, further contributing to escalating rental rates.

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Regional Demographics

The Charleston-North Charleston MSA, which makes up nearly 15% of South Carolina’s population, offers favorable demographics, with above average population growth and a skilled, educated labor force.

* ESRI forecast
** ESRI estimate

POPULATION
2021: 810,077 *
2016: 739,086 **
2010: 664,607 (Census)

HOUSEHOLDS
2021: 318,449 *
2016: 249,931 **
2010: 259,987 (Census)

HOUSEHOLD INCOME
Average:
2021: $79,189*
2016: $72,334**
Median:
2021: $58,142*
2016: $52,719**

AGE (2016)**
20-34: 167,474 (22.7%)
35-64: 282,906 (38.0%)
65+: 101,641 (13.8%)

RACE & ETHNICITY (2016)**
Caucasian: 66.4%
African American: 26.2%
Hispanic Origin: 5.4%

EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT (2016 Population 25+)**
High School Graduate: 22.2%
Associate Degree: 8.8%
Bachelor's Degree: 21.5%
Graduate/Professional Degree: 12.1%

Source: ESRI Demographics, Colliers International Research

Healthcare Services

The Charleston-North Charleston MSA is served by a variety of healthcare systems and professionals based on geographical location. Major health systems include MUSC, Roper St. Francis, Trident Health and East Cooper Medical Center.

ROPER ST. FRANCIS
Hospital Beds: 742
Hospital Campuses: Roper Hospital, Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital, Roper St. Francis Mount Pleasant Hospital, Roper Hospital - Berkeley, Rehabilitation Hospital

TRIDENT HEALTH MEDICAL CENTER
Hospital Beds: 390
Hospital Campuses: Trident Health Medical Center, Summerville Medical Center, Moncks Corner Medical Center, Center Pointe Emergency

EAST COOPER MEDICAL CENTER
Hospital Beds: 130
Hospital Campuses: East Cooper Medical Center, Charleston Imaging Center, Rehabilitation Centers, Charleston Breast Center

MUSC MEDICAL UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Hospital Beds: 604
Hospital Campuses: MUSC Medical Center*

*South Carolina’s only comprehensive academic medical center.

Source: South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control

Area Attractions

There is much to see and do throughout Charleston. Below are some of the area’s popular attractions.

HISTORIC DOWNTOWN CHARLESTON
Charleston’s downtown is full of history, culture and arts. King Street offers a variety of upscale dining and shopping options. The Historic Charleston City Market features vendors in open-aired buildings. 
www.charleston.com/neighborhoodsdowntown-charleston.aspx

FORT SUMTER
Fort Sumter is a national monument and is the location where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. Fort Sumter is located on an island in the Charleston Harbor. 
www.nps.gov/fosu/index.htm

USS YORKTOWN
The USS Yorktown was the tenth aircraft carrier to serve in the United States Navy. Visitors can also visit CLAMAGORE, the only GUPPY III submarine preserved in the U.S. 
www.patriotspoint.org

SOUTH CAROLINA AQUARIUM
The South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston’s downtown features many animals and plants native to South Carolina with animals from both land and sea. 
scaquarium.org

AREA BEACHES
Charleston is home to five beach towns, Kiawah Island, Isle of Palms, Folly Beach, Seabrook Island, and Sullivan’s Island.
www.charlestoncvb.com/beaches

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