One of three South Carolina counties in the Charlotte region, Chester County is just 30 miles south of Charlotte. As Chester County strives to adapt to an ever- changing global economy that has greatly diminished the county’s traditional textile industry, the need for new investments are greater than ever. Chester’s unemployment rate has consistently ranked as the highest in the Charlotte region for a number of years, hovering above 20% for an extended period during 2009 before dropping to around 17% in the summer of 2010. Poverty rates have remained among the highest in the region, while educational attainment and SAT scores have consistently ranked among the lowest.
Like other counties in the Charlotte region that comprise that second ring of communities beyond Mecklenburg’s “border counties”, Chester has not yet experienced the spill-over growth from Charlotte that often serves as a stimulus to further growth and economic diversification. Yet, Chester at least has the benefit of having a direct interstate highway connection to Charlotte through Interstate 77. That connection represents a promising opportunity for Chester, made even more so by its direct link to Columbia, SC. Given the importance that the interstate highway system plays in today’s economic world, one would have to conclude that the first major investment in Chester’s economic recovery has already been made, and is just waiting for the right mix of leadership and policy to capitalize on it.