Chamber president predicts plenty of economic growth for Charleston in 2011
By Charlie Morrison I Staff Writer
The Lowcountry’s economic future is bright, at least according Charles Van Rysselberge, president/CEO of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce. Though the nation as a whole seems to be still wading through the process of economic re-birth, the Charleston region is set for growth, both in the here-and-now and in the long-term.
The diversity of industry is the key facet that has allowed Charleston to escape the deepest throes of the recession, according to Van Rysselberge. The hospitality/tourism industry, a pillar of the Charleston economy for centuries, will remain stalwart, with the commercial cruise ship industry set to provide growth. Manufacturing, however, will be the local industry to lead us forward, with Boeing and Bosch leading the way, according to Van Rysselberge, who will conclude a 9-year stint as head of the Chamber and a 40-year career in public policy with his retirement at the end of March.
Van Rysselberge points to the grant received by the Clemson University Restoration Institute to develop and test next-generation wind turbines and drive trains as an example of the economic stability and growth prospects in Charleston. The group will receive in upwards of $98 million to build and operate a wind turbine testing facility to be housed at the former Navy base in North Charleston. Van Rysselberge predicts that a maximum of 10,000 to 20,000 jobs could be brought to the area as a result of the new facility being housed here. The facility is set to open sometime during the third quarter of 2012.
In addition to the new industries being established in the area, Van Rysselberge points to the invigoration of the Port of Charleston as a major growth factor in years ahead. Though the Port of Savannah has eclipsed Charleston in recent years as a result of their transportation infrastructure, Charleston is set to regain its position as the Southeast’s top port in the years ahead. “Charleston will catch up and pass Savannah eventually, the primary reasons being we have both a short distance between the hub and the terminals and also the deepest harbor in the South Atlantic. With the completion of the (deepening of the) Panama Canal in 2014, we’re going to see a huge number of ships coming through here,” said Van Rysselberge.
Other points of growth for Van Rysselberge include the introduction of Southwest Airlines into the Charleston Airport, a move he expects will potentially keep upwards of $80 million in the local economy, and the entrance of Boeing on the local manufacturing scene. “We are very fortunate to have so many wonderful things that are at different stages of growth in the community. The whole Boeing thing is going to have a huge impact and will for years to come,” said Van Rysselberge.
Van Rysselberge attributes the diversity of industries in the Lowcountry as the backbone it will rely on for future growth. The combination of having both manufacturing industries and a strong service industry in the region, complimented by introduction of new players such as Boeing, Clemson, and Southwest, sets the region up for decades of success going forward.