Summerville is Open For Business: Economic Development, It’s a Good Thing

Madelyn Robinson is the director of planning and economic development and zoning administrator for the town of Summerville.

Summerville is open for business. that’s the message from Madelyn Robinson, director of planning and economic development and zoning administrator for the town of Summerville.

“It’s a town that’s getting bigger population-wise and area-wise, but it does a fantastic job of still retaining its charm and its small-town feeling,” said Robinson.

That’s not all Summerville has to offer. While small business is the backbone of the town, the current population of just over 43,000 means Summerville can support larger businesses that residents once had to drive to North Charleston to find. Some big box stores have set up shop, there are more chain restaurants than ever and 11 retail complexes with more than 30,000-square feet of leasable space are located within the town limits.

The town is working to protect its existing businesses and searching for new commerce that will complement the current commercial array. Summerville shares information and resources with the economic development departments in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties and the Berkeley-Charleston- Dorchester Council of Governments.

For instance, in a joint effort with Dorchester County, Summerville D.R.E.A.M. (Downtown Restoration Enhancement and Management) and the Greater Summerville/Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce, the town participated in a retail market study in 2010. The results were incorporated into Summerville’s 2011 comprehensive plan. The economic development goals outlined in the plan are to:

• continue support of existing businesses and their potential to expand;

• encourage professional and military personnel to establish and expand small businesses;

• seek opportunities for business incubators;

• attract regional corporate headquarters;

• work with county economic development teams to establish and expand the growing industrial base adjacent to the town near Interstate 26.

The retail study suggested that Summerville’s population warrants additional businesses, such as one or more specialty or high-end grocery stores; a large bookstore; full-service restaurants; arts and crafts related businesses; and specialty clothing stores.

The Arts Business Civic Coalition of Summerville/Dorchester County is studying whether Summerville could support a large meeting facility, and the town is encouraging the development of a boutique-style hotel with a full-service restaurant in the heart of downtown.

Even with increasing numbers of retail, hospitality and service businesses locating in Summerville, 60 percent of its working residents commute to jobs elsewhere. That trend could be reversed: Large parcels of land within and adjacent to the town could serve as business parks, regional headquarters campuses and industrial parks, thus giving more Summerville residents the opportunity to work closer to home.

Based on the 2011 Regional Economic Scorecard produced by the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, the town and region are working to attract businesses that supply components for current area industries: advanced security and IT, aerospace, biomedical and wind energy. And the Scorecard suggested enhancing areas deemed critical for economic growth, such as advanced materials, creative design, drivetrain and power systems, logistics and software.

“[The people] are the reason this town and this area are so nice; they have strong beliefs in preserving what’s special and building on it. And that’s what the town is working on, to take that forward a step, a few more steps over the next five to 10 years and build on it,” said Robinson.

For more information about Summerville, visit