North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey used his annual State of the City address to compare the city now to what it was like when he was first elected in 1994.
“Before being elected, I saw a North Charleston that had no real direction, no vision for what it should be. North Charleston simply was,” Summey said in his video address, which was recorded in advance of the presentation Thursday night. “While out on the campaign trail going door to door, I met a lady who set a course for my time as mayor. She said, ‘If you become mayor, I expect you to bring pride to this city.’ That’s been my calling this past year. It is my calling for the year ahead, as it has been every year since 1994.”
Unlike in 1994, he said "development in North Charleston is hot." The city issued 609 certificates of occupancy last year, and it has an additional 713 single-family residential units and 2,656 multifamily units in development.
“Of course, being popular can create strains. In our region, the result has been increasingly snarled traffic,” Summey said. “I wish that I could tell you that a city or a mayor could solve this singlehandedly. The truth is that the only way to mitigate traffic congestion is adequate funding from the state level.”
He said approval of the recent half-cent sales tax is a great local step in the right direction but is not enough.
“Our legislators in Columbia have let the state get $40 billion in the hole. In North Charleston alone, we easily have $2 billion in roadway needs,” Summey said. “No city can add a new interstate, but what we can do is push our legislators hard to solve this state-level problem.”
The mayor also compared the city’s 1994 and 2016 workforces.
“Our workforce, once largely employed by the federal government, is now highly skilled and focused on meeting the demands of our world-recognized businesses, but we haven’t lost our blue-collar touch,” he said. “We still make things with our hands. We build jets and automobiles, and we proudly boast to be the only city in the world to do both. ... It’s a remarkable achievement compared to the North Charleston of 1994 that was facing what seemed a devastating loss of naval employment.”
Since 2006, the city’s hospitality collections from hotel revenues have increased about 60%. Accommodations tax revenues are up 80% over that decade, and sales tax revenue increased 27%. Retail sales in 2006 totaled $3.7 billion, while today the total is up to $7.1 billion, Summey said.
“The numbers tell a much bigger story, more than just what’s on an accounting sheet,” he said. “They tell how hard this community has worked, how hard North Charleston employees have worked and how North Charleston has engineered a remarkable and sustained transformation. Our numbers show that North Charleston is a community to which people are flocking.”