Report: Local economies among nation’s fastest growing

Mount Pleasant has the nation’s 15th fastest-growing economy for a small city, reflected by increases in housing and population, according to a new study. Along with that growth come challenges, namely housing affordability. File

Charleston, North Charleston and Mount Pleasant have some of the fastest-growing economies in the United States, according to a new WalletHub report that compares 515 cities nationwide across 15 metrics including population, employment, housing data and poverty levels.

Charleston’s economy ranked No. 20 among mid-size cities with populations of between 100,000 and 300,000 people, according to the study. North Charleston was at No. 28 in the mid-sized city category. Mount Pleasant has the 15th-fastest growing economy for a small city, which includes those with populations of less than 100,000 people.

WalletHub used statistics from 2010 to 2016 to generate its report. WalletHub said using multiple years of data helps the group identify locations with “a lasting cycle of growth.”

While economic growth is good, local communities are facing some of the biggest ancillary issues that high-growth areas across the nation are grappling with.

“Rapid population growth creates many challenges,” Stephen Conroy, a professor of economics at the University of San Diego, said in the report.

One of the biggest: housing affordability.

“As housing inventories fall, prices rise, creating spikes in home prices and rental rates,” Conroy said. “Affordability can become an issue, and some at the lower end of the housing ladder may either have to crowd into smaller spaces, move somewhere else or become homeless.”

In addition, Conroy cited strain on public services and infrastructure as problems that go along with rapid economic growth.

Melanie Bowers, an assistant professor of political science with Rutgers University, also said rising housing and commercial real estate costs are the biggest challenges facing high-growth cities.

“In most of the fastest-growing cities, we see annual increases in housing prices in the 8 percent to 10 percent range. In very few cases do incomes rise at commensurate rates,” Bowers told WalletHub.

“As a result, many people are priced out of home ownership, rental rates increase … small businesses struggle to find affordable space, and goods and services increase in price to accommodate their rising costs,” Bowers said.

All of the local cities ranked high in population growth, with Mount Pleasant’s annual growth rate of 3.6 percent the 10th-highest among small cities. North Charleston’s annualized population growth was 23rd-fastest in the mid-size city category at 2.74 percent while Charleston was No. 38 at 2.33 percent.

Mount Pleasant also ranked No. 5 among the nation’s small cities for median household income growth.

The region also fared well for job growth, with each city ranking among the top 15 percent nationally.

The only other South Carolina cities in the report were Columbia, ranked No. 180 among mid-sized metros, and Rock Hill, which finished No. 88 among small cities.

Frisco, Texas, which is part of the Dallas metro area, had the nation’s fastest-growing economy while Shreveport, La., was the lowest-ranked nationally.

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