The Charleston Regional Development Alliance recently released its 2012 Regional Economic Scorecard. At first glance, the report shows strong economic growth for the Charleston tri-county region. However, after a closer look, key elements such as affordable housing may be preventing the region from becoming a world-class metropolitan area.

This is the third annual assessment, which compares the three-county region’s economic progress with six similar metro areas (Greenville, SC; Jacksonville, FL; Knoxville, TN; Lexington, KY; Richmond, VA; and Savannah, GA) and two leading economies (Austin, TX and Raleigh, NC). Researchers focused on economic development, human capital, innovative activity, the entrepreneurial environment, and quality of place to determine economic progress.

Economic Development: Between 2005 and 2010, the region’s Gross Regional Product grew more than 8%, outperforming all state, national, and peer metro areas. We are the #1 US metro for manufacturing job growth (up 14% from Q1 2010 to Q4 2011), and for the growth in percentage of adults with college degrees.

Human Capital: The Charleston area ranks 3rd in percentage of the adult population with a high school diploma, and 3rd in percentage of adults with a college degree.

Innovative Activity: We rank 3rd in the percentage of employment in technical positions and 4th in employment in IT related businesses.

Entrepreneurial Environment: Charleston is a great place for entrepreneurs, ranking 1st in the number of small to mid-size businesses.

Quality of Place: This is where we struggle. The report ranks us 3rd in violent crimes and last in housing affordability.

The study concludes that in order for our region to be an economic success, we must focus on transportation, education, innovation, and talent. We at CLF notice a common element that is missing: housing.

In order to be a true economic leader, we must encourage in-fill development of housing affordable to our workforce. If local workers cannot afford to live near their jobs, there is more congestion, longer commute times, and further concerns of sprawl. We look forward to bringing community and business leaders to the table to continue the discussion on the need for a tri-county housing plan, and how it relates to long term economic growth and sustainability.

Check out next week’s blog where we will connect the dots between transportation, education, attracting talent, and housing.