Faced with the closure of the Charleston Naval Complex in the early 1990s and the loss of some 22,000 jobs, Charleston County leaders responded decisively, establishing an economic development function with broad deal-making authority and dedicated funding. The decision proved to be a game-changer when Charleston was selected as the location of the second assembly line for the Boeing 787 in 2009 and the home of the first North American site for Mercedes Benz Vans in 2015. However, the county faced new economic challenges, some of which are the result of its own success, including economic disparities, housing affordability, and a strained mobility infrastructure. These challenges, along with the need to diversify the employment base, enhance the entrepreneurship ecosystem, and expand the inventory of developable sites, required Charleston County Economic Development (CCED) to expand and restructure its approach.
The successful recruitment of Boeing, Mercedes Benz, and other global brands demonstrated Charleston County’s ability to compete on an international stage for business investment, visitors, and residents. And CCED will continue to play a critical role in establishing the region as a global destination, on par with rising metros such as Charlotte, Nashville, Seattle, and Austin. Toward that end, CCED engaged TIP Strategies to prepare an operations plan that would equip the organization for the future. The plan itself was organized around two main sections: Organization and Programs. The Organization section addressed key structural recommendations for CCED, including governance, oversight, and funding. The Programs section laid out strategies and actions for pursuing the organization’s operational initiatives, including business retention and expansion, new business, business intelligence, workforce, and entrepreneurship. Economic development marketing agency Golden Shovel developed a marketing strategy and brand in conjunction with the planning process.