Lowcountry's economic outlook for 2014 looks modest

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- The Center For Business Research at the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce predicts modest economic growth for the Lowcountry this year.{}

Chamber officials presented their findings Thursday to business leaders as they look ahead to 2014.

"Our region is enormously blessed to have the economic growth that we're experiencing and to have even more of that ahead of us," said Mary Graham, Senior Vice President for the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Her message resonated with{} more than 550 business leaders at the annual Economic Outlook Conference. Researchers tell chamber leaders that the Lowcountry's financial footing is firm.

"Retail sales are growing.{} Housing is growing both in sales of homes as well as new homes being built.{} So every sector of the economy is growing in this region," said Graham.

Economists point to two success stories that are fueling that growth: Boeing and South Carolina's ports.

"The expansion of Boeing that's taking place and also the expansion of our port, both of these industries are drivers of our economy and are helping to fuel the growth that's occurring right now in Charleston," said Graham.

Analysts admit there are still challenges. Job growth for this year and next will be slow and there's still a need to improve roads, bridges, and schools.

"Infrastructure is a critical challenge facing our region. If we don't get the infrastructure right, that's going to be a huge barrier for the economic success. Education is another factor. We've got to have the right talent here," said Laura Varn, Chair-elect of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Despite those obstacles, business leaders say the Charleston area's economic outlook is good.

"We are in a very enviable place in the country," said Varn.

Chamber officials believe modest growth this year will lead to a stronger 2015. And in the next five years, at least 25,000 jobs will be created.{}

The annual Economic Outlook Forecast is a partnership between the Charleston Metro Chamber's Center for Business Research and the College of Charleston's School of Business and Economics.{}{}

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